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Up close in Thompson’s new Vantage seat, Nova

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundTucked away at the back of the Thompson Aero Seating stand at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo was the seatmaker’s latest product, Vantage Nova. A member of the successful Vantage family that had been concealed in a backroom booth last year, Nova impressed for a second year running when Runway Girl Network journalists sat down in it with senior Thompson design team members at AIX.

Our visit was on a no-photos basis, partly, we understand, because there is a launch customer for the seat, on the Airbus A350 platform. Thompson designers tell RGN that, with that launch customer, Nova is going through the Airbus NOE (Notification of New Equipment) process, so will be linefit offerable on the platform. In terms of maintenance, RGN understands that there is substantial mechanical commonality with the Vantage family, especially the larger variants.

We mainly sat in the front row business-plus suite row of the inward herringbone version of Nova, and were impressed. Airlines have the option of either outward-facing or inward-facing herringbones on the outboard seats, and outward-facing (i.e., towards the centreline) in the middle section.

Most of the seat shell is in a kind of modernist, textured series of greys, with the seat itself covered in a buttery-feeling tan Sabeti Wain cover. The front row features a 32” inflight entertainment monitor, with smaller screens in subsequent rows as usual.

The design is fairly advanced as far as herringbones go, including carving out the usual triangle-shaped spaces at the side table that will save passengers from knocking their knees while turning over. Thompson tells us that the angle in the row two seat we also tried is 32 degrees, pitched at 44 inches, and all the various seat layouts we tried were impressively spacious.

Most strikingly in the front row, the buddy seat/ottoman arrangement two sections, each of a rounded roughly triangular surface. As a default, one of these is higher and one is lower, and the aisle-side lowers from buddy seat level to ottoman level using a manual pedal.

The front row experience feels very slick in a Thunderbirds kind of way, and the angle of the buddy seat means that the leg conflict between the people in main and buddy seats is markedly reduced — even for your six-footer-plus journalists — while the conviviality between the space in its four-person use is boosted by the angles.

Substantial storage has been built in, including a forward-facing stowage about 18” (40-50cm) by 8” (20cm), with a decently sized mirror, glasses space, and more than enough room for the contents of a traveller’s pockets. There are drop armrests with stowage underneath for a small kitbag, while a small cocktail table features wireless charging.

Making the most of Thompson’s updated CMF style, there’s a pleasing terrazzo-style surface on the side table, which also has a PED slot at the front of it. 

The table mechanism is a similar slide-out design as seen elsewhere, and is bifold with a PED slot. Its longitudinal support means that it’s remarkably sturdy, a benefit both for laptop users to avoid the infamous typing bounce on some products, and when dining, particularly à deux.

Rotation

A new divider around six inches above the height of the table slides up on a kind of spring system, gliding very neatly into place with a soft stop, avoiding the kind of thumping clunk that some spring-loaded functionality has. 

If the divider is down, the two tables also come together to create a larger surface in what is now the iconic Thompson mahjong-table way.

A crew release for the table is another smart improvement: enabling the crew to deploy this elegantly, without having to fumble down by the passenger when it comes time to set the dining table, is a clever move.

Overall, the half-ottoman buddy seat is a really interesting solution to one of the problems with creating buddy seats from inward-facing herringbones in front row business-plus, namely how a seatmaker balances the buddy seat, angle (especially in the four-person mode, where the two buddy seat occupants would be facing away from each other) and space issues in non-buddy mode.

Nova is markedly refined from the back room of last year’s AIX stand, and seems likely to prove a success for Thompson. If the Vantage underpinnings mean a strong early industrialisation in the current supply chain crunch, it could be a strong contender in the crowded business suite market.

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Featured image credited to Thompson Aero Seating