Could neck cushion sales fall when flying resumes in earnest? Italy-based ABC International believes so, with the launch of a headrest that is a rethink of how to achieve seated comfort on-board aircraft. The design – named the Boom Headrest – is intended to enable adjustment for the optimal orthopaedic posture of the neck and nape, aiding comfort and sleep.
The designer of the headrest is Ms Aysegul Durak, formerly a chief engineer for cabin interiors at Turkish Airlines, with over 24 years of experience in aircraft cabin configuration and improvement focused on passenger satisfaction. She explains the idea behind the concept: “While sitting, passengers require arm support, and therefore the seats are fitted with armrests. Considering that head comfort is just as essential, why do today’s headrests do not provide effective support for the head, including the nape and neck? The Boom Headrest is designed to meet the current unfulfilled demands of passengers.”
She adds that many headrests do not have nape or neck support, only allowing the head to lean on the back or wings (side supports), which explains why some passengers prefer to use their own orthopaedic pillows during flights. Advanced postural studies have shown that the ideal headrest must carry the weight of the head by tightly embracing the nape, neck and head.
The ‘gooseneck’, the multifunctional mechanism within the Boom Headrest, offers various neck and head support options to passengers, with adjustment achieved by applying a light pressure on the arms to bring the headrest into the desired position.
In addition to comfort, weight is another essential key design factor for aircraft seats. With the aim of making Boom the lightest headrest on the market, ABC International used state-of-the-art aeronautical materials and processes. The main structure of the Boom Headrest is manufactured from aluminium alloy with steel and polyamide inserts, giving long-term material functionality, integrity and uniformity.
Aysegul Durak and CEO, Alberto D’Ambrosio, share the latest developments and aims of the design.
If an airline ordered the Boom Headrest today, when could you have a full wide-body shipset ready for delivery?
Alberto D’Ambrosio, CEO of ABC international: “We were supposed to have an official launch of the Boom Headrest at Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) 2020 in Hamburg. Thus we made a full prototype, integrated with an economy class seat, which was ready to be tested by airlines during the show. Now we are targeting a new show or exhibition where we can present the ‘real product’, but in the meantime we have decided to reveal it to the media.
“Based on this and considering that we have already performed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the project, our target is to be able to deliver the first shipset of the fully integrated Boom Headrest in no longer than six to eight months from receiving the first order.”
How is the headrest mounted to the seat? And would a retrofit of this product require that the seat be recertified?
Aysegul Durak, designer of the Boom Headrest: “The headrest can be installed to any type of seat backrest, and ABC’s engineering team will provide the full documentation, the kit, and even the installation, if required. We do not expect that any recertification will be necessary because the Boom Headrest is lighter than any other headrest in the market. Even seats that do not currently have headrests might still be within the weight limits when the Boom Headrest is installed.”
How does this headrest accommodate tall passengers? Is there a slide (up/down) mechanism not shown in the images that would make the headrest higher for tall passengers (or indeed lower for short passengers)?
Aysegul Durak: “Yes, there is vertical slide mechanism in Boom Headrest that allows passengers to adjust the headrest height in line with their neck position.”
Recaro and Safran have introduced similar headrests to the market in the last 18 months. What are the key differentiators of ABC’s headrest?
Aysegul Durak: “According to our studies, for the best headrest comfort, the nape, the neck and the head must be held in place and the weight of the head supported. The first condition of creating comfort is to embrace the nape tightly; the second is to wrap the head and/or neck tightly while still embracing the nape. The third condition is to provide passengers with various neck and head support position selections during the journey. The Boom Headrest is the only headrest that is designed to meet all these conditions.
“The multifunctional bending mechanism inside the circular structure of the Boom Headrest can be folded in three-dimensions manner, with any angle possible from any point throughout the length of the headrest, meaning it can embrace the neck and/or head of the passenger without having corners that can leave gaps in support. By means of this tight embrace, the Boom Headrest can carry the weight of the head and neck.
“Other headrests on the market, including the two you have mentioned, have a standard inner width and are not customisable to the passenger’s neck size, so they cannot embrace the neck and thus do not provide proper nape or neck support. They can only allow the head to lean on the back or side supports. Boom Headrest promises much more than a mere leaning of the head, and we proudly claim that the headrest is the most comfortable ever designed, even surpassing the comfort of portable neck pillows.”
“We can customise the dimensions, foam stiffness and fabric/leather trim, according to customer demand and according to the seat dimensions and model. One of the best things about co-operating with Italian companies is they make a quality product in a very aesthetically pleasing way.“
Does the Boom Headrest represent ABC’s first foray into aircraft seating structures? If so, what is the driver behind ABC’s decision to enter this part of the market?
Alberto D’Ambrosio: “ABC’s strategy is for sure to dedicate more resources and energies to designing and developing an ever-wider range of specifically conceived and highly customised products to support our customers (airlines, seat vendors and cabin monument OEMs) to improve the quality of aircraft cabins and the onboard service and experience. In this endeavour and according to our plans, despite the deep impact of Covid-19 on our industry, our plan to add POA/Part21G capability by end of 2020 remains unchanged.
“Products such as the Boom Headrest and our new Rigid Life-vest Box are intended to support this perspective. They are good examples of products helping airlines to improve the whole flight experience, with a special focus on passengers of course, but without ignoring or neglecting the optimisation of airline operations or cabin crew requirements.
“But this does not means that ABC International is aiming to enter the aircraft seating market as a manufacturer – not at all. There are already too many manufacturers! In the end our goal is for ABC to be seen and perceived as a partner company to airlines and to seat, cabin and monument vendors, helping them to boost a positive passenger flight experience with innovative but specific/niche products.
“We are convinced that the good design development that ABC is currently doing, supported by a fast and easy seat interface integration mechanism and an adequate marketing and sales campaign, will ensure the success of the Boom Headrest.”
Are you in talks with seatmakers and airlines yet?
Alberto D’Ambrosio: “Not yet, at least not in a systematic and continuative way. Indeed our idea is to target the Boom Headrest package not only to seat makers, but also to airlines or, even better, to both at the same time in the sphere of either line-fit or retrofit programmes.