Aboard a state-of-the-art aircraft might be the last place you would think of yourself enjoying a warm “candlelit” dinner, followed by a good night’s sleep under a starry night sky. The truth is, the latest aircraft cabins seek to provide just that – a revolutionary in-flight experience through the use of mood lighting. Mood lighting uses the full spectrum of colors and the ability to change these colors continuously with LEDs to mimic or enhance a sunrise morning or a bright, fresh afternoon, or a cool evening that winds down the day. These lighting effects even seek to reduce your likelihood of jetlag. LED lighting programs can be specifically designed to gradually shift your waking and sleeping biorhythms to match that of your destination city.

Airbus A380 first class cabin compartments.
LED lighting is perfectly suited to create a flexible and everchanging lighting scheme using a combination of white and colored LEDs. In the design of the cabins of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A380, Philips Lumileds partnered with Diehl Aerospace to optimize the interior lighting system design for maximum passenger comfort.

“Many years of research led to an optimized selection of various LED types and colors to achieve the best balance of flexibility in the lighting system and maximum energy efficiency,” explained Dave Cosenza, at Philips Lumileds. Philips Lumileds provided the LEDs while Diehl Aerospace engineered the overall lighting system for the Boeing and Airbus cabin interiors. “The system allows us to create a unique atmosphere in the aircraft,” said Cosenza.

“LED technology can offer an overall energy savings of 55 percent relative to previous lighting systems,” explained Marc Renz from Diehl Aerospace. Contributing to this savings is the dramatically lower power consumption of LED technology, but also the ability to easily dim the LEDs. This reduction in energy use, in addition to the smaller size and lighter weight of solid-state devices, reduces the aircraft’s fuel consumption.

Airbus A380 cabin social area and staircase.
In addition to fuel efficiency, maintenance has a direct effect on operating costs of an airline. LED lighting has a lifespan of approximately 50,000 hours or 10x the life of incandescent, fluorescent or halogen bulbs. Furthermore, since LEDs are solid-state devices, they are much more robust to vibration and shock than light bulbs, so the maintenance requirement is even further diminished.

Over the last several years, reading lamps on aircraft were one of the first to switch from halogen to LEDs due to the reduced power consumption and longer lifespan. Now, virtually all the lighting on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner are LED based, including ceiling and sidewall wash lighting, dome lighting, reading lamps and other spot lamps.

Passengers on the Airbus A380 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner might find the difference in cabin ambiance between these flights and those on previous aircraft to be like night and day. Mood lighting not only provides the airline with an ability to recreate a soothing, relaxing atmosphere in-flight, but it also affords a new branding opportunity that airlines haven’t seen since air travel first became affordable to the masses. Along with this newfound in-flight comfort, aircraft designers can reap the practical benefits of smart LED lighting systems including energy efficiency, better lighting control and longer lifespan.


Lighting Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2013 issue of Lighting Technology Magazine.

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