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Business Class Airline Seating System

Motivo engineered, built, tested a fully functional seating pod in 4 months for an international airline expo

Our customer was a partnership of a leading aircraft interior manufacturer, an in-flight entertainment (IFE) provider, and a design studio. These companies partnered up to develop a next-generation premium-class airline seating experience. Motivo’s role was to accelerate the development process by rapidly engineering and prototyping a complete seating pod including a lie-flat seat, sliding tray table, and articulated monitor. The first prototype of this seating system was planned to be unveiled at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Germany.


The seating pod had to meet the extremely challenging design requirements for commercial aircraft. Weight and volume are critical issues on aircraft, as they directly drive how much payload can be carried. Similarly, electrical power on aircraft is strictly rationed, and passenger comforts are limited to relatively low power budgets. The FAA mandates crash requirements for aircraft seating systems, including a 16g dynamic impact test, and the kinematic and structural design had to meet the intent of these requirements.

Our customer’s goal was to unveil the seating pod at the AIX show only 4 months after project kickoff. At the start of the project, our customer provided us with a design concept for the pod and a collection of production hardware that they wanted to use. Motivo’s job was to do all of the engineering development, build, test, and support of a fully functional seating pod for the show. A project of this magnitude is typically on a 12 to 18 month time scale.


To meet the challenging deadline, Motivo’s project management team had to carefully coordinate internal resources with an array of suppliers and partners across the globe. Engineering and build tasks had to be paralleled in clever ways – for example, the control system for the seat was designed, built, and nearly completely tested before the seat mechanism was manufactured. At the same time, another part of our team was working on a bench test of the IFE equipment, so that subsystem was ready to drop in as the seating pod was being assembled.

The lie-flat seat was designed from the ground up to meet aircraft requirements while providing a new level of passenger comfort. Our mechanical engineering team started with a set of ideal ergonomic positions provided by our customer and synthesized kinematics to realize these positions. We developed a custom position control system to smoothly move between position set points, controlled though a touch screen in the armrest.


Motivo overcame numerous challenges during the build and integration process and delivered the system on-time for the AIX show in April 2014. Our customer demonstrated the seating pod to many high-profile customers over a period of 3 days and the hardware operated flawlessly during continuous operation. Our customer is now taking the hardware we developed and transitioning it into production.

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