Three new MEA planes landed recently, at Beirut Airport, making people forget, for a period of time, the economic and health crisis that has plagued Lebanon for a while. Middle East Airlines (MEA), whose Lebanese flag is proudly displayed, has taken over 13 new Airbus A321 neo. Six of them will arrive in the coming months and will also land, like the first three, on the tarmac of Beirut International Airport. Evaluation with designer Joe Farah, who has volunteered for over 18 years, designing MEA aircraft.
Tell us about the Airbus A321 that you have designed?
The Airbus A321 is part of the A320 family, which also includes A319, A320 and A321 models. Powered by Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G-JM geared turbofans, the new MEA jet is configured in 2 zones with 28 seats in Business class and 132 seats in Economy class. Panasonic Avionics has been selected by the MEA to provide in-flight entertainment and connectivity (infotainment) solutions. One of the MEA planes carries the number 10,000, a very rare and highly prized number in its category.
What are the particularities of this aircraft in terms of design?
The Airbus A321 is a very avant-garde and extremely modern version: the seats are dark in color, the cabin is rather bright, and a LED light appears in night mode. The noise caused by the machines is practically non-existent, which offers optimal comfort to passengers. Noise pollution is eliminated by 50%, and kerosene consumption reduced by 20%. The Internet is accessible to all passengers, and the very thin LED screens are also accessible to all in the seats.
You are also responsible for the design of the next A330. What can you tell us about this?
This is correct. The A330 acquisition deadline, scheduled for December 2020, will unfortunately be postponed to 2023, given the international economic situation. The A330 planes are real gems, featuring individual shell seats in Business Class, worthy of first-class comfort, and unparalleled luxury.
What process do you follow to design an airplane?
Designing the space of an airplane is the primary concern of a designer. The plane, as such, is a small space, and the profitability for the airline should be guaranteed by fitting it out, moreover MEA. Once the spatial planning is completed, the designer turns to the study of dimensions, materials of manufacture, colors, safety standards, accessibility, without forgetting the cabin baggage space located above the seats. Then, he goes to the technical areas that make up the interior of the aircraft: changing rooms, service areas, meal preparation, toilets…
The main concern of the designer being:
- The choice of seats: upholstery, functions, pockets, etc. Passengers have everything they need close to them.
- The choice of colors: Airbus offers 2 versions; one whose walls are cold colors (white) used for hot countries, and the other whose colors are beige (rather “warm”) used for cold countries.
- The choice of wallpaper and floor covering: color, products, carpets, vinyl.
- Cabin lighting in the various flight modes.
This accomplished work is done entirely in compliance with safety standards, and is subject to the control of Airbus, which, following each choice, undertakes a simulation of the aircraft with its various components.
What are the main constraints that you seek to combine design, comfort and safety?
Pleasing passengers is not really a constraint, but rather a ‘‘must”. Thousands of passengers take these planes daily. My main objective is to ensure their comfort and satisfaction, to encourage them to resume MEA flights. However, there might be some dissatisfied people, but the percentage is minimal. Once the plane is completed, nothing can be changed, as stopping a plane is a huge loss in millions of dollars. The real constraint, however, is that of weight. Every element, every material, and every color overlay should be as light as possible.
What would be your last word for our readers?
The MEA is very important to Airbus. MEA’s contracts with this aviation giant are not as large as those with other countries. However, the Lebanese benefit from a know-how that should not be neglected in terms of human and emotional contact, which favors relations with the Airbus team and consolidates their agreements.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr. Mohammed el-Hout, President and CEO of MEA, for the confidence he has placed in me in order to be able to carry out this exceptional project.