by Chris Leadbeater, The Daily Telegraph, May 23, 2017
It is one of the perennial bug-bears of modern air travel: You are one of the last people to board your flight – and once you finally climb the steps, the luggage bins are stuffed with wheelie-suitcases, winter coats and plastic carriers of duty-free produce. So you are left with two options. Prowl the cabin until you eventually find an empty overhead slot half a plane behind your row, meaning you will have to wait for everyone else to disembark before you can retrieve your possessions. Or hand over your important bits and pieces to a steward, who will pronounce those words of doom: “This will have to go in the hold”.
Help, however, could be at hand – or, at least, at foot – thanks to a group of students who have created something clever. A storage space that fits underneath the plane seat in front.
As with many intriguing inventions, the Private Stowage Compartment (PSC) is so simple that you wonder why it wasn’t dreamed up sooner. It was unveiled earlier this month as the winner of the Fly Your Ideas competition staged by aviation giant Airbus.
First run in 2013, with the final round held annually at Airbus’s corporate headquarters in Toulouse, the contest is open to university students with bright ideas for the air industry.
The PSC is the brainwave of DAELead, a four-man team from the University of Hong Kong who came up with their box of tricks as a way “to store personal luggage to enhance passenger experience by improving disembarking efficiency, passenger comfort and increased luggage capacity.”
At the team’s final presentation, it was accompanied by a simulation which demonstrated how deployment of the contraption on a 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft could significantly improve boarding times.
Airbus was suitably impressed with their efforts. The French company described the invention as a “simple but effective solution for improved passenger experience.”
The design, it added, “fully utilises the space between the cabin floor and the cargo ceiling to give the passengers their own personal luggage space.”
DAELead’s triumph was rewarded with a cash prize of €30,000 (£25,900).
Four other teams made the final stage of the competition, including a group of designers from the University of Surrey, who were shortlisted for “a radical concept that turns a commercial airliner into an ‘Earth Observation Device’.”
Aquarius, a team from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, finished second – and won a sum of €15,000 (£12,950) for a device which would enable Airbus planes to be converted to fight wildfires.
It remains to be seen whether the PSC will make it into commercial development. Detractors might argue that what it accomplishes in terms of storage space, it loses in room for passengers’ feet.