Design Q CEO Howard Guy on Design Q and the INAIRVATION consortium winning the contract to design Aerion’s AS2 supersonic jet.
In November 2015 Aerion Corporation, which is now well advanced in its plans to bring the first supersonic jet to business aviation, made two huge announcements. The first was that Ken Ricci’s Flexjet has signed an order for 20 of Aerion’s AS2 supersonic jets. The second announcement was that the design contract for the AS2’s interior has been awarded to Inairvation, with Design Q taking the lead on industrial design. EVA covered the order in a detailed interview with Doug Nichols, CEO of Aerion, in our last issue. In this issue we talk to Howard Guy, CEO of Design Q.
Q: Congratulations on the AS2 design win. That must be immensely satisfying, as well as setting Design Q some significant challenges! What can you tell us about the win?
A: The Aerion programme has been on our radar for several years. As soon as the project gained momentum, signified by Aerion’s partnership with Airbus, we opened negotiations with them in partnership with Inairvation, which also seemed like a perfect synergy because it was clear that Aerion would need all the services that the Inairvation partnership, which consists of F. List, Lufthansa Technik and Design Q, can bring to the table.
Design Q’s brief for the project is as much self-imposed as it is a directive from Aerion. We are primarily concerned with what layouts and opportunities we can identify, using the real estate within the envelope of the fuselage. Our approach is to look for clever uses of space and things that differentiate what is currently taken as standard in the marketplace. Our focus is on anything we can do to make the AS2 clever, innovative and logical but at the same time distinctive, different and better than any previous interior for a business jet! The expectation from the customers is higher than anything that has been done before. The fact that this is a supersonic jet is a key element, of course, but the price of the product, too, demands that the finest of everything goes into the aircraft!
Q: How does the collaborative process between the client and the designer work in practice, not just on the AS2 project, but generally?
A: There are two levels here. The first looks at the typical client/owner requirement and the other is the OEM requirement. The drivers are very different. Clearly, each party wants as much as possible for as little cost as possible, but the OEM is driven by the profit motive too. They want to make parts and systems that generate margin on the sale price. This is a very different brief and we need to satisfy both sides!
Q: What happens if the client gets whimsical and comes up with radical changes late in the day?
A: Radical changes late in the day are very expensive and often perilous. This industry is not tolerant about such changes. The very nature of the business means that late changes carry risks and risks are the last thing you need in manufacturing a safe product to a real deadline. Time is always the thing that some customers think they can buy but the reality is that all the money in the world can’t buy you time you don’t have!
Q: How much attention do you pay to the deep engineering issues that a design might raise, or is that down to the completions house to solve?
A: This is where the value of using Design Q really makes a difference. We are visionaries and we produce fabulous images of what could be. But we are engineers too and we usually build what we design. So our job is to give the completion centre or the OEM solutions to manufacture rather than challenges for them to resolve. That is why we can produce something like the Global 7000 marketing prototype from scratch and produce a full ship set of totally new seats in five weeks with a fit and finish quality that can be translated into full production. A large part of the joy of design is turning the vision into the real thing, which is why we do not waste time designing something that can’t be produced!
Q: How much do you enjoy the challenge of actually winning new design projects for Design Q?
A: It is immensely satisfying. We have some exciting product developments in hand, one of which has been waiting in the shadows for nearly three years but at last the funding is in place and the programme is about to begin. This is how our business is… You come up with a new invention, you present your plan, you hope and you wait. Then one day, completely out the blue, a lady calls you and tells you that you are going to be busy for a couple of years.
What is that project I referred to? Well it is to do with business jets; however, this invention applies to all of them and not just one manufacture. It is revolutionary – but you will have to wait until patents are filed and our prototypes are ready to show the world!