The F/LIST booth at the forthcoming NBAA-BACE show is set to cause a profound shift in perceptions of cabin sustainability. The company’s Head of Innovation, Mélanie Prince hints at the spectacle to come
The F/LIST booth is surprising and delightful at every show and hopes will be high for the company’s NBAA-BACE exhibit in Orlando, a town where spectacle is commonplace. Head of Innovation Mélanie Prince is reluctant to give too much away but happy to say: “This year’s booth will be the springboard from which we encourage visitors to dive into a magical new world of cabin materials. We’ll be unveiling a portfolio of sustainable materials and innovative technological concepts that will make the impossible possible.
“Bio-based materials to facilitate the dream of a sustainable cabin and powerful new technology pioneered by our innovative research team will showcase how we can help designers do more with less. We will be promoting elements from the natural world and taking it all one step further to show how nature combined with technology opens a Pandora’s box of possibilities.”
Sustainability and natural materials are also obvious threads running through the revamped F/LIST website, and Prince confirms that offering the best natural materials to the aviation industry has always been fundamental to the company. “Today we continue to look backwards to our origins, in order to go forwards with new ways of incorporating nature into our offering. Our understanding of, and passion for natural products continues to expand.”
Heritage, knowledge, craftsmanship
And yet the natural materials most often found in business jet and VIP cabins – wood, stone, leather and metal – have long been fundamental to the human environment. How does F/LIST reimagine the traditional in a modern way? Prince responds: “Our skilled team takes familiar materials and transforms them – natural stone morphs into stunning stone surfaces and selected trees become vibrant veneers. We combine years of heritage, knowledge and craftsmanship with contemporary technology, new materials, and cross-industry knowledge sharing to satisfy the need for lightweight, high-performing, eco-friendly concepts.”
She goes on to reveal: “We are also exploring bionic design, which emulates natural structures to create smart configurations that support loads and forces exactly where necessary. We are integrating plant fibres instead of synthetic fibres into our materials, as well as incorporating by-products and materials from biorefineries. The results are strong, light components that form the basis of cabin frameworks.
“In addition, we look outside the industry for inspiration. We often talk to start-ups creating next-generation eco-materials and collaborate to repurpose new, alternative and modern concepts to the cabin. The suite of new products that we are revealing at NBAA perfectly combines traditional materials with modern techniques; it really is quite remarkable what we can achieve.”
The simple inclusion of natural materials does not make a cabin sustainable though. F/LIST is therefore careful when it sources materials and in how it uses them. “We always aim to source responsibly,” Prince confirms. It is in our culture to establish where the materials come from and how that impacts the environment. The new materials we’re showcasing at NBAA are created using end-of-life, recycled materials and by-products, and can be reused once they have come to the end of their time in the cabin. Circular products are a top priority for us. We’re also introducing products that are grown exclusively for industrial use, use less water and resources for cultivation, and do not impact human or animal food chains. These are the types of considerations we are investigating and interrogating as we develop new products.”
Prince also insists that sustainability informs F/LIST’s production activity. “Our team continuously strives to optimise every piece of material, achieve the maximum from each design and always keep waste to a minimum. Our dedicated sustainability team focuses on ensuring that all aspects of our work are guided by sustainability.”
The company’s Thomasberg, Austria headquarters is cooled by river water, while the production facility is entirely heated by renewable energy sources from local supply. The latest machines and systems are employed for heat recovery, and LED lighting is intelligently combined with motion sensors to ensure the only energy used is that which is needed; “We even arrange our office furniture to maximise natural light,” Prince notes.
In 2016, F/LIST created one of Austria’s largest photovoltaic powerplants, covering the roofs of both Thomasberg production plants in photovoltaic cells. The installation generates 1,179 kilowatt hours/year, saving 565 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the output of 444 cars each driving 10,000km/year.
Prince continues: “Our ultra-modern plant has an intelligent energy management system that measures performance, internal energy consumption and total consumption in real time. Excess energy is directed to separate outlets via a sophisticated control system. Over the weekend, for example, electric forklift trucks are charged with the stored energy and ready to go on Monday. And food for our on-site restaurant is sourced from local farmers and producers, with a focus on bio-quality.
“We are proud to have achieved ISO 50001 certification, which means we assume the responsibility to continuously increase energy efficiency and decrease energy consumption. Part of that involves encouraging our team to take small actions that combine to make big changes. We ask them to turn off the lights and equipment that isn’t being used, make sure taps don’t drip and encourage them to talk and live sustainability.”
When it comes to sustainability in the cabin, Prince says the message continues: “We consider ourselves ambassadors for using natural products sustainably and believe we are in a privileged position to really influence this mindset. It’s our responsibility to introduce new thinking. We want to offer our customers intriguing, stylish, functional materials that will inspire and encourage them to think about sustainability first.
“If a passenger/owner is sitting in a beautiful sustainable cabin environment that is functional, stylish and durable, and does not compromise on quality in any way, then they will realise that they can also have that experience in their car, yacht or residence. It is up to us to show that sustainable natural materials can perform as well, if not better than existing products, last as long, and are breathtakingly stunning.
“We therefore want the messaging to extend beyond the cabin into the passenger/customer mindset. Our new products are made of natural materials, many of which are completely customisable in terms of colour, texture and application. Nature is liberating the cabin ambience and that is a powerful message to deliver.”
Returning to the question of exactly what F/LIST will have on its NBAA-BACE booth, Prince remains tight-lipped. “Our suite of sustainable products supports weight reduction, and is durable and functional, elegant and beautiful. We expect to set imaginations on fire with this new product collection. Nothing like this has ever been seen before and we’re also aiming to raise the bar on the way the industry thinks about sustainability in the cabin.”