Increase in aircraft size, flight length, number of transported passengers and the demand for a better on-board service quality requires re-consideration of existing aircraft catering concepts. New ways of storing and transporting of service products inside of an aircraft were investigated within the EU funded research project “Aircraft Service Logistics (ASL)”.
Key element of the new concept is the relocation of service products to the lower deck area, generally known as cargo compartment. Storage will be made in a removable container, which from the outer dimensions is identical to existing aircraft containers. This allows a pre-loading of the service products in the container at the caterer and a fast loading along with the baggage containers on the aircraft in dedicated positions. Retrieval of products out of the container to the passenger deck will be performed by means of a vertical conveyor system. The spatial separation of passenger area and service product area leads to an optimised handling process i.e. parallel boarding and catering is now possible. As a consequence a reduction in the turn-around time of the aircraft on ground can be reached. This allows a better utilisation of the existing airport gates and especially for short- and medium range aircraft a better utilisation of the aircraft by adding an additional flight leg due to the accumulation of saved ground time.
The reduction of storage space on the passenger deck allows an increase of the passenger capacity (internal stretch). Depending on the aircraft type and layout a reduction of direct operating cost (DOC) is possible which is desirable by the airlines, especially in the light of the current competition with low cost / no frill carriers.
The main objectives of the project are the reduction of aircraft direct operating cost (DOC) and the improvement of the service comfort for both passengers and cabin crew.
A reduction in aircraft DOC shall be achieved by relocation of meals and service products to the cargo compartment which will provide more space available on the passenger deck thus increasing the number of passengers per flight without expensive aircraft stretch. Due to the reduction in fuel consumption per passenger the pollution of the environment will be reduced. Alternatively the number of passengers may be maintained resulting in more space per passenger thus increasing passenger comfort.
The first alternative results in a direct reduction in operating costs per seat. The second solution results in an advantage over the competitors by offering a higher comfort with only a slight increase in operating costs due to the additional ASL system weight installed. This is desirable as it will reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). In both cases the space gained on the passenger deck goes in line with a reduction in cargo volume which has to be considered in the DOC calculation by the airlines.
Today the meals must be loaded individually in the oven and be placed on the tray after heating up. If the next development step, an automatic heating of the meals, is accomplished, a dramatic reduction in cabin crew work load can be expected. Also the work load for the ground catering personal will be reduced by a one step loading of the service products in the cargo hold versus trolley-by-trolley loading into the cabin today.
Another objective is the reduction in turn-around time at airports due to parallel passenger boarding and food catering possibility instead of the current sequential logistic procedure. Considering the increased size of aircraft and the large number of service products (meals, duty free articles, gifts, drinks etc.) the importance of this issue can not be underestimated. This will increase the airport gate capacity and improve the efficiency of the aircraft operation due to the addition of another flight leg within the operating hours per day on short and medium range routes.
The use of a thermal insulated container allows usage of lightweight, thermal uninsulated service boxes instead of individually insulated trolleys. This will provide a weight benefit and a further reduction of DOC. To allow movement of the service boxes on the aircraft during flight a transportation de
During the project the current catering process and logistic chain was investigated. Based upon this investigation the various requirements from caterer, airline and passenger were established and different system concepts were generated. These concepts were evaluated and a prototype hardware (Technical Research Platform - TRP) was built and installed in a cabin simulator at Airbus Deutschland GmbH. The TRP was presented to various airlines for verification purposes, handling tests were performed in order to receive input from these potential future users / customers of the system. The general feedback from the participating airlines was positive.
Also detailed specifications for the various components of an airworthy system have been developed based on thorough investigation of their technical feasibility. This was accomplished in order to enable potential manufacturers to assess the required development effort.
In parallel, various layout analysis were made for an optimum integration of the system in wide-body aircraft. Based upon these analysis the resulting seat gain and the reduction in DOC was calculated for both Airbus and Boeing aircraft. To confirm the benefit of the ASL system and to show the impact on the on-board service process, a software was generated for on-board service visualisation. It was proven, that the ASL concept is feasible and that a market for an airworthy system might exist. However, for future development it is mandatory to standardise the interface between the fixed installed vertical conveyor system and the removable container to allow combination of components from different suppliers with their own internal technology. Also the reliability of the system had to be proven and therefore the kinematics had to be investigated in detail.
The project “Aircraft Service Logistics (ASL)” was carried out to investigate new ways of storing and transporting of service products inside of an aircraft. Key element is the relocation of service products to the lower deck area, generally known as cargo compartment. Due to the available space on the cargo deck currently only wide body aircraft are considered. Storage is made in a removable container, which from the outer dimensions is identical to existing aircraft containers. This allows a pre-loading of the service products in the container at the caterer facility and a fast loading along with the baggage containers to designated locations inside the aircraft cargo compartment. The resulting spatial separation of passenger boarding and service product loading process enables a parallel optimised handling i.e. parallel passenger
boarding and catering is now possible. As a consequence a reduction in the turnaround time of the aircraft on ground can be achieved. This allows a better utilisation of the existing airport gates and, especially for short and medium range aircraft, a better utilisation of the aircraft by adding an additional flight leg due to the accumulation of saved ground time. The reduction in storage space on the passenger deck allows an increase in passenger capacity of 2-5% (internal stretch).
The main project results are as follows:
- Proof of concept and feasibility
- DOC reduction
- Reduced fuel consumption
- Reduced crew workload
- Proposal for certification requirements
The following research activities were planned to be undertaken within the 6th Framework Programme:
- Consolidation of requirements set by the airlines during handling tests of the TRP
- Development of an airworthy ASL system (jam free and damage tolerant)
- Investigation of further aircraft layouts based upon airline requirements
- Development of an integrated heating system
- Development of standardised lift interface
- Development of service box / service cart principle
- Investigation of lift principle
- System application for single aisle aircraft
- Investigation of cost efficient retrofit solution into existing aircraft
- Use of ASL container for human operated lower deck galleys as additional storage compartment