A new lighting option for the Airbus A320 family is now available, replacing even the LED pinpoint diode lights already in use.
Schott AG of Germany received a supplemental type certificate from Europe’s EASA at the end of August for its Heliojet LED lighting. Schott’s LED design uses six LED diodes in a 471mm (18.5 inches) strip or 10 in a 928mm (36.5 inches) strip. The shorter strip is divided into three segments and the longer into five. Two LEDs are at either end of each segment, connected by a tube with fiber optics to provide a steady stream of light instead of the pinpoint light of multiple LED bulbs. There would be 10 LED bulbs in each segment, says Klaus Portmanns, business manager-aviation of Schott.
LED lighting has been replacing florescent lighting for years, providing a brighter look in the cabin and eliminating the yellowing of the plastic covering over the fluorescents. But Portmanns says that the 10-diode LEDs currently in use have their own shortcomings. As these age, light coloring becomes inconsistent, often fading. Intensity also may vary.
“The most challenging factor for LEDs is heat,” Portmanns says. There often are varying temperature gradients in the aircraft when in service. Depending on proximity of the LEDs to air conditioning or heating outlets. LEDs can also be affected by the heat or cold build-up in the airplane as it sits on the ramp between flights and overnight, but operational variations are the prevalent issue.
Reducing the number of diodes is a cost saver. An airline may pocket the cost or invest in future versions of the Heliojet now under development. The certificated version is all white but a four-color version should be available next year. The color version will have red, green, blue and white diodes which may be combined to produce additional colors. For the adventurous airline, a disco effect may be achieved.
What will the passenger see? In each case, a consistent light emission vs beams from each diode. If florescent lighting is being replaced, the plastic covers disappear and the LED lighting is directed toward the cabin in a 60 degree focus rather than a 360 degree lighting from the fluorescents.
No customer has purchased the system yet. Portmanns says the Heliojet is in testing on a Lufthansa Airlines Airbus A319, and Schott shared a Lufthansa Technik booth at the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo US in Seattle, suggesting Lufthansa could be the first customer.
Portmanns says that development of the Heliojet for Airbus widebody aircraft is next, followed by plans to offer the system to Boeing.