"A new dimension of private air travel"
Interview with Wieland Timm and Gorden Wagener
Lufthansa Technik will present the production-ready design for a VIP aircraft created by Mercedes-Benz Style for modern jet-setters and global citizens at the Monaco Yacht Show. This jet, of which only a handful will be produced, will go far beyond everything that has been built to date. Wieland Timm, Vice President Corporate Sales VIP & Special Mission Aircraft at Lufthansa Technik, and Gorden Wagener, Head of Design Daimler AG, talk about the unique features of this concept and its realization.
The concept of a business jet created through a collaboration of Mercedes-Benz Style and Lufthansa Technik was presented a year ago. Why are you presenting it again at the Monaco Yacht Show?
Wieland Timm: When we first presented the project at the EBACE trade show in Geneva in 2015, we were astonished by the level of media attention this topic received. Numerous customers also expressed considerable interest in this revolutionary design. However, the discussions revealed a fundamental doubt as to feasibility – that the challenges entailed in realizing the original design study would be too great. To answer this question definitively, we have designed the project all the way through. In Monaco, we're not exhibiting a concept study any more – we are presenting a product in which all elements of the design study have been realized without compromise. Thus, we have created all the necessary prerequisites for building and certifying this aircraft. This means that we can start taking orders effective immediately.
What was Mercedes-Benz Style's motivation to develop this VIP aircraft cabin with this partner?
Gorden Wagener: With Mercedes-Benz Style, we have also been working on products outside of conventional automotive design since 2010 in collaboration with selected partners. Our aim was to apply the design language of sensual purity and the high standards of modern luxury and aesthetics that characterize Mercedes-Benz to other spheres of life. Lufthansa Technik is the ideal partner in the area of VIP aircraft. The aim of our collaboration is to unite innovate design and technical competence. We wish to offer exclusive customers around the world an interior design concept that leaves nothing to be desired.
What will you be presenting in Monaco?
Wieland Timm: At the Monaco Yacht Show, Lufthansa Technik will present the full range of its offerings, products and services for VIPs at a centrally located trade show booth that is close to the entrance. The focus will be on the celebration of the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft, which will be presented with the aid of ultra-modern virtual reality technology that enables users to explore the cabin in virtual space. A model of the cabin – produced in part using 3D printing – will also be on display to provide an overview of the design concept and the special features. Additionally, a wide range of material samples will offer visitors an extremely tactile impression of the materials and colour worlds of the interior.
What is so special about this concept?
Wieland Timm: The Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft is unique in many respects. It is the result of a collaboration of the German premium brands Mercedes-Benz Style and Lufthansa Technik. The final product, the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft, is a unique combination of highly innovative design that embodies the modern luxury of Mercedes Benz, coupled with leading-edge technical innovations along with uncompromising standards of quality and craftsmanship "Made in Germany".
That begins with the ultimate in technological sophistication. The very finest of what is currently possible in the areas of technology and digital communication has been integrated. This is complemented by the ultramodern cabin innovations from the product portfolio of Lufthansa Technik, for example Life Cooking. And finally, innovations from the Mercedes-Benz automotive world have been adapted to the aircraft. This is particularly apparent in the "black panels", which are formally inspired by the latest Mercedes-Benz dashboard design. They join with the floating lines of the furniture and feature electrically-controlled sun shading as well as a real-time passenger flight information display – tailor-made to our customer's wishes.
However, the unique design of the cabin is the feature that most decisively impresses and resonates with our customers. You immediately sense that this is more than just a means of transportation. Rather, it conveys the cool, trendy atmosphere of a lounge or loft such as one would expect to find in every global metropolis – be it Shanghai, Dubai or Paris. This reflects the lifestyle of our target group: modern jet-setters and global citizens. The Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft is designed and built to enable them to forget the rigours of travelling.
Why does Lufthansa Technik call this aircraft revolutionary?
Gorden Wagener: We've developed a completely new space concept that goes beyond conventional cabin space design, and we've been rather radical in throwing old-fashioned aircraft cabin design precepts overboard. This enables passengers to experience the Mercedes-typical modern luxury in all its aspects, because the design is both emotional and intelligent – in other words, "hot" and "cool" at the same time. We've developed an interior design that clads the entire space in a spiral, a DNA helix. The dynamic, spiral spatial allocation creates new, separate zones without the typical aircraft-type arrangement of seat and wall elements. The individual space zones flow into each other, so that the entire interior "feels" like a single organic unit. This novel spatial impression is further enhanced by the strong interplay of contrasts in materials, colours and illumination that is so characteristic of Mercedes. Everyone entering the cabin is sure to be overwhelmed and inspired.
Which target customer group does the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft address in particular?
Wieland Timm: With the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft, we are addressing people who have a great affinity to exceptional design. Naturally, a private jet is something special and unique per se. But the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft stands out clearly from conventional private-jet designs and architecture in many ways. On account of its revolutionary design combined with future-oriented technologies from both the aviation and automotive sectors, this aircraft is nothing less than a "moon shot" in the private jet segment. Without question, the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft defines a new era of private air travel.
What were the greatest challenges in the development work over the last year?
Gorden Wagener: The challenge was to apply the competence from automotive design and our design language of sensual purity to the special proportions and specific requirements of an aircraft. In our new concept, the walls, ceiling and floor flow into one another. The furniture is seamlessly integrated in the cabin interior, and has been implemented with numerous innovative detail solutions.
Wieland Timm: The uncompromising realization of the original design study to achieve this required the use of leading-edge engineering and production processes, which Lufthansa Technik possesses – some processes were developed especially for the realization of this product. Our experienced, highly-qualified engineers pushed the boundaries of what is technically possible to be able to fabricate the segments of the spatial elements which flow into one another.
For instance, design documents for the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft were developed using ultra-modern 3D technology, and then rendered using virtual reality technologies so that our customers can truly experience the result. Leading-edge solutions such as 3D printers are also used in place of conventional processes. So in creating this product, Lufthansa Technik is venturing into completely new territory in the aviation industry.
What should prospective customers for the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft know today?
Wieland Timm: This ultra-modern cabin concept offers numerous possibilities for customization and differentiation, to fulfil our customers' personal desires. This relates to layout variants, the technologies and systems used as well as diverse colour and material worlds. The Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft was developed on the basis of the latest generation of narrow-body private jets from Airbus and Boeing (ACJ320neo and BBJ MAX), which can already be ordered. They offer a cabin length of at least 25 meters. In principle, however, the Mercedes-Benz Style Aircraft is available for all Airbus and Boeing models. I ought to add that this offering is limited to five aircraft – and in addition to the many prospective customers, we're currently processing two concrete inquiries.