In no area of Delta is innovation more alive than at Delta Flight Products – the global airline's wholly owned start up charged with innovating the most complex aspects of Delta's aircraft interiors. Quietly launched in the summer of 2016 with a mere 10 employees, the team has grown to more than 230 aviation professionals who are revolutionizing how airlines do aircraft interiors. Here are three ways how:
1. Creating an industry first: Wireless seat-back in-flight entertainment system
Delta is known for its continued investment in seat-back entertainment on more aircraft than any other airline. Delta Flight Products was launched in 2016 to give the airline the ability to take control of that experience with industry-leading technology not available in standard industry supplier catalogues.
"Our goal is simple," said Rick Salanitri, President – Delta Flight Products. "To deliver a more interactive and cost effective in-flight entertainment platform that can be easily customized for Delta customers."
That goal was reached in 2018 when Delta took delivery of its first A220-100, outfitted with the new wireless IFE system from Delta Flight Products. Delta is the first U.S. carrier to take delivery of the A220 aircraft, and customers will experience wireless IFE for the first time on Jan. 31, 2019, with Delta's inaugural A220 flights.
"The A220 IFE system is the first to combine wireless technology with state-of-the-art tablet displays fixed mounted into the back of the seat, while the all-free Delta Studio content will have a similar look and feel to what is currently experienced across our fleet," Salanitri said. The system was designed to provide Delta customers with more entertainment choices than ever before, and through the use of wireless streaming, reliability is designed into the system. "The tablet displays will deliver a vivid and interactive experience to the user, and since the architecture is Delta-developed, it's easier to migrate to new and emerging display technology," Salanitri added.
The DFP wireless IFE system will roll out on Delta's new A330-900neo and A321neo fleets, and will be retrofitted on Delta's 767-400 aircraft during the their mid-life interior modernizations beginning in 2019.
In addition to the expected customer experience and cost benefits, wireless IFE also helps reduce the airline's environmental impact. The wireless streaming technology enables the reduction of about one pound of wiring per seat when installed on an aircraft. This means Delta's modified 767-400 fleet will nix about 1,330 metric tons of carbon emissions annually.
2. Mid-life cabin modernizations: Quickly breathing new, lighter life into the fleet
The introduction of the A350 and A220 to Delta's fleet have ushered in flagship products for the airline's international and domestic onboard experience, respectively. Delta Flight Products has been tapped to manage mid-life cabin modernizations for Delta's 777 and 767-400 fleets to bring them up to flagship standards through the design, integration and production of thousands of parts, and configuring the aircraft with new lavatories, IFE and lighting systems, while managing FAA certification activities.
"We identified a huge opportunity to save time and manage risk by supplying a seamless, integrated solution for Delta's most complex cabin upgrade programs," Salanitri said. "We can now design, manufacture, produce, refine and FAA-certify Delta interiors, which means Delta can control its own destiny."
Delta Flight Products' production shops were built to fabricate structural aircraft parts requiring milling, turning, cutting and forming on computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines. Interior components like closets and cabin wall dividers are fabricated using Delta Flight Products-engineered composite honeycomb sandwich constructed panels, resulting in optimized component design, lower weight and reduced fuel emissions. The team also works closely with suppliers of products it doesn't fabricate, like seats, to ensure modification programs are efficient and well-coordinated.
3. Nimble engineering that makes life better on board
The start-up company mentality that permeates Delta Flight Products explains why lifting a fully loaded overhead bin on a modified Delta 777 is so much easier these days.
Delta Flight Products engineers partnered with Delta's operations and compliance teams to customize and fit a proprietary mechanism to Delta's 777 overhead bin system to reduce the lift force required to close the bin.
"Bin lift assist is a prime example of why Delta Flight Products exists," Salanitri said. "We're able to meet an acute need quickly and effectively to help Delta people deliver the best experience for our customers."
Over the past several years, Delta has led the airline industry on innovating the customer experience including replacing ID checks at touch points with fingerprint scanning or facial recognition, RFID baggage handling, automatic check-in and bag tracking via the Fly Delta mobile app, an alliance that will empower customers with seamless in-cabin connectivity experience, more efficient and high-tech automated screening lanes, and a groundbreaking app that helps Delta pilots avoid turbulence for a more comfortable flight. In 2018 Delta in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched the first fully biometric terminal in Atlanta for international flights and introduced Delta Biometrics to enter all domestic Delta Sky Clubs. The global airline is also empowering its employees to have more meaningful interactions with customers by arming them with real-time handheld tools that aggregate data in a way that allows them to personalize their service delivery and have more meaningful interactions – not just transactions – with customers. All of this has resulted in Delta being named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies Worldwide in 2018.