Sometimes when concepts come along at thedesignair.net we get excited, as they often push the boundaries of the ‘plain plane’ and give us reason to stop and re-evaluate what we consider as the standard experience for today. TEAGUE, with its 80 years of design history, teamed up with ultra-hi-tech Nike to look at the plane environment from a very unique perspective.
The result, the ‘Athelete’s Plane’ concept, “explores the effects of air travel on professional athletes and offers a customised solution that preserves peak performance by addressing the effects of air travel on the human body’s natural rhythms,” states TEAGUE. We have seen custom purpose aircraft before, they aren’t nothing new, such as the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. These aircraft do exist for good reason, however, one for athletes to shape up before a game may seem a little too ostentatious for most.
“Air travel often hinders athletic performance due to the impact on physical, physiological and cognitive functions,” said TEAGUE Creative Director, Philipp Steiner. “When professional athletes travel across multiple time zones their team is statistically more likely to lose—the Athlete’s Plane essentially levels the playing field.” So when you think of the often tight schedules that teams work to, such as the world cup, whereby footballers were jetting from one stadium to another, or the England Team who played a friendly game in Miami, before jetting overnight to the World Cup the day after, there is scope for such a concept. Especially considering sporting teams around the world are a large consumer of private and charter jets.
But with the advent of luxurious suites and flatbeds, is there a need for this concept and what is currently not being catered for on planes already? The Athlete’s Plane provides pre- and post-game necessities to maximize performance, readiness and recovery. Amenities include lie-flat seating to accommodate athletic builds, ‘plug into plane’ compression sleeves to ice sore muscles, a zoned cabin configuration to separate noise, and biometric testing and analysis in-flight. Just think of basketball players: most carriers offer beds up to 6’4″ on average, with many being smaller, meaning that taller individuals are going to have to compromise on their sleeping position to rest up, this new concept offers over 7′ beds.
The zones created also offer a greater sense of space, areas to walk, to sit and meet. Obviously the plane is loaded with full recovery suites, such as massage tables, easy access bathrooms and showers, mood lighting and chill out zones to recover in a more comfortable and less conventional airplane space.
There are of course, design elements here that shouldn’t, but do, get us excited. The design teams have really dug deep into the ethos of professional athletes. Small details such as numbering the seats on the numbers the players wear is a great touch, it means athletes can psychologically own their space. Forward and backward seating which makes the players almost head to head allows for better communication, and the non-players still receive comfortable seats in a separate section. Lighting is key in this concept in creating separate spaces.
Naturally this is going to look more like a conceptual Nike shop than a plane, and that’s a good thing, this whole concept is about removing the players from a stressful ‘transit’ situation and putting them into a professional, welcoming and social space, which fundamentally acts as a locker-room before the match. This said, there are design touches here that could easily make their way onto mainline commercial fleets. The simplicity of the lines and clean, large open spaces are what carriers have been wanting to offer for years, but commercially haven’t been able to introduce such swathes of space because of the loss of income from carrying less passengers.
Beauty Isn’t Skin Deep
This isn’t just a beautiful and striking interior though, it is a carefully thought through scientific product. Working closely with Nike, TEAGUE had direct access to industry experts in sleep research, professional and collegiate coaches, team physicians and former athletes to guarantee a cabin interior that could meet the demanding needs of professional athletes. The Athlete’s Plane concept centres on four areas of performance innovation that are not currently addressed by commercial charters:
Recovery: equalizing the negative effects of air travel on the mind and body, and bringing the training room to 40,000 feet through in-flight biometrics and analysis to accelerate injury diagnosis and treatment
Circulation: fostering natural mobility and building in equipment that ensures optimal circulation and promotes healing
Sleep: designing ideal sleeping conditions for individuals and sleep strategies for entire teams to maximise physical readiness
Thinking: creating spaces for key mental activities, especially film study—enabling in transit film review both before and after games
The problem with concepts is that very few ever take flight, but this concept has more merits than you may think. Whilst we may never actually see a plane like this take to the skies (which will be a great shame), private jet owners will be taking note. Some royal families in the Middle East, with their wide-body private jets, constantly fly their prize winning horses around the world for competitions, and many of the elements here, could indeed be adapted to equestrian travellers.
The sense of space also, could be utilised for bands, who can use the space to practice, sleep or rest before concerts, and even racing teams could utilise the space, using the concept of technology, biometrics and analysis to prepare both car and racer for an event.
There are elements above, however that aren’t too science-fiction, and are more science-fact. Mood lighting already exists on most modern carriers. The pools of light you see here will be key to creating a welcoming environment on Etihad’s new 787 and A380 fleet, the Boeing Dreamliner; such as Royal Jordanian’s, was designed to create a sense of space, with large cavernous entryways, and Emirates has been offering large showers and bathrooms since they first started flying.
Either way, we enjoy looking at these concept designs, and no doubt will see one or two elements, quietly creep into our passenger experience in the next few years.