British Airways is to take part in an 18-month research project aimed at developing lightweight aircraft seating for business and premium economy cabins.

The carrier has formed a consortium with Williams Advanced Engineering, JPA Design and SWS Certification, with support from Airbus and funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

The £1.4 million project will research the development of new lightweight aircraft seat structure capabilities in the UK, with the aim of securing a segment of what the consortium says is a $14.6 billion aircraft interiors market.

The project will be led by Williams Advanced Engineering, with JPA Design providing concept designs, BA and Airbus helping to “pull the technology to market”, and SWS Certification guiding towards regulatory approvals.

JPA Design also brings with it an “already proven” monocoque (single shell) design which is currently flying with Singapore Airlines.

In a press release the consortium said that it aims to “design and develop new lightweight aircraft seat structures for manufacture using innovative, rapid processes, incorporating background intellectual property (IP) from the consortium companies”.

The release added that “For example, replacing all business class seats with a lighter product on just 12 long-haul planes such as the Airbus A350 translates to saving 942,000kg of CO2 and $195,600 in fuel per year, based on a 4kg weight saving per seat”.

The consortium cited data from trade organization ADS which values the interiors market for new-build and retrofitted aircraft at $14.6 billion, and said that the project will initially focus on business class seats as they “attract most innovation investment”.

The approach will be to develop a product which can be fitted across multiple aircraft types, from the A320 to the A330 and A350. The consortium said that “Airbus manufactures approximately 800 aircraft per year and the short haul A320 family forms the vast majority of its output, their market for lie flat line fit business class seats are in the order of 1,000 seats per year”.

Commenting on the partnership Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering, said:

“Lightweight and safe components are crucial for success in motorsport and our team is excited to have the opportunity to translate these capabilities into saving airlines carbon emissions and costs.

“Working with industry leaders as well as the ATI in this consortium offers significant benefits to aviation and the UK economy.”,,,,