Acro Tag

Andy Jones Q&A

Andy Jones with template

In the latest instalment of our insightful series of Q&As delving into the team that continues to drive Acro to be the market leader it is today, we caught up with Technical Director Andy Jones.

We wanted to know more about what his job entails and his insights into the design process of Acro’s innovative products.

What does your job as Technical Director involve?

I support the team in developing, building and improving our products – from concept, through product development and certification, and on to industrialisation, sustainability and the end of life cycle considerations, it all involves engineering. At Acro, we are well known for our agility and collaboration with our airline customers, so we also spend a lot of time working with airlines and adapting the seat designs to suit the needs of our clients.

We continue to champion our design values around simplicity. The ultimate aim is to achieve a purity of design where form, function, weight, manufacturability etc. are all in balance and there is nothing superfluous. Every feature and every part has to justify its value in the finished product. A consistent feature of Acro products is that we aim to reduce unnecessary complexity, which directly benefits weight, material usage, maintainability and ultimately sustainability. Less is more!

You’ve been in the aerospace industry for nearly 20 years, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in that time?

Most of the key drivers underpinning the aerospace industry still focus on passenger accommodation, reliability and speed to market, but sustainability is now also key for airlines, whether that’s in the materials used, supply chains or end of life for the product. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of making our seats as sustainable as possible, as it’s added another dimension to the design challenge.

In the past we may have designed parts machined from solid aluminium without much consideration for material usage other than the impact on cost. Now, we approach the same engineering problem with a much broader sense of the impact our design decisions may have, not just on material selection and usage, but how it’s been manufactured, transported, processed and how it may be disposed of.

The Series 9 has been very well received in the market, has it been your biggest design success so far?

Yes, in my view Series 9 has been a gamechanger as the market has recovered post covid. We worked hard on it during the covid period and hit the market at time when everyone was looking for the next level of product to take the industry forward post the pandemic. Lightweight, durable and spacious, it seems really to have hit the mark with customers, and we continue to benefit from the impact it has made.

It’s quite a versatile product because of its core qualities, providing great fundamental attributes upon which to build and develop a more diverse offering appealing to a broader range of customers. No two airlines are the same so their operational priorities may drive differing expectations – whether that’s prioritising living space, low weight or feature enrichment. We’ve had one customer who wanted a wider aisle to seat passengers more quickly, for example, and other airlines that want to take advantage of the Series 9’s outstanding living space. Its simplicity of design has allowed us to easily adapt it for the needs of our customers, which as a designer is great to see.

We’ve also continued to expand the product range with Series 9 addressing more aircraft platforms including 737 and regional aircraft applications, and we’re now developing a Series 9 for wide body aircraft with video IFE, with up to a 13.3-inch screen, as well as a high-density version for the A350 too.

Alongside the Series 9, we’ll also be showing the Series 7 at AIX as a well-established, tried and trusted domestic first-class seat too. This year, however, it has been totally refreshed with a more contemporary design and additional passenger features, whilst still keeping its standout qualities of reliability and spacious accommodation at its core. I think it’s going to make a major impact and we’re really excited to see how it is received!

You are also launching a new product at this year’s AIX – Innovares. Can you tell me about it?

Innovares is an all-new premium economy seat concept which we showed for the first time at AIX 2023, and we received great feedback on the initial concept then. Its unique structure offers unrivalled foot space along with a very generous recline. So, we’ve built on that feedback and refined the design and will be taking a further development of the product to AIX this year. We’re looking forward to showing it to several potential launch customers and we’re very hopeful that it will get a lot of interest.

Innovares also offers real scope for customisation to suit each airline’s particular requirements and as we have a strong track record of collaborating with our customers on product design at Acro, we’re really looking forward to having those conversations at AIX about Innovares.

What do you love about your job at Acro?

I love the daily challenge of overcoming problems. I was always destined to be an engineer – whether it’s cars, motorbikes or aircraft interiors I like to get under the skin, understand how it works and look for ways to innovate, to move the industry on. I genuinely get a kick out of the multidimensional nature of the aircraft interiors industry, from creating a comfortable seating environment for all passengers, the huge diversity of airlines’ operational requirements, to engineering in sustainable solutions, and of course safety and reliability, all of this represents the design and engineering challenge of developing a great product at the right weight, and at the right cost.

What is your favourite way to spend your time when you’re not engineering and designing Acro’s seats?

I like spending time with my wife and two daughters, one just finishing university and one just starting.

I used to race motorbikes at an amateur level when I was younger, and so I still love riding and getting my hands dirty in the garage. I’m also a huge rugby fan and a supporter of Northampton Saints, and of course, England.