We speak with Founder and CEO of YASAVA, Christopher Mbanefo, about how he takes the best in interior design to the skies.
YASAVA is a Swiss design firm that has caused stellar disruption in the world of high-flying aircraft thanks to its passionately committed, innovative and practical approach to providing luxurious, ergonomic designs for interior design, cabin layouts and seats.
HOW AND WHEN WAS YASAVA FOUNDED? WHAT IS ITS CORE PHILOSOPHY?
YASAVA was born in an old farmhouse high up in the Swiss Alps in the late-1980s. At that time, I was working as an aerospace engineer and was engaged in aircraft design and flight-testing. Today, we are a multinational team that is based in various countries. Multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural, we are driven by a common vision that perfection in our thoughts and activities results in positive contributions to the common good. To achieve this, we accept no compromise! In South Africa, this idea is called Ubuntu. We call our humble contribution... Flight Couture!
HOW DID THE WHOLE PROJECT FIRST TAKE FLIGHT?
In the late-1990s, YASAVA was appointed as one of the exclusive representatives of Bombardier Aerospace. We spent several hundred hours flying demonstrations of various corporate aircraft in the United States, the European Union, Africa, and the Middle East. During these flights, it became clear that the interiors were unsuitable for many clients. They did not offer the comfort expected by business and first class travellers. In fact, what you really get is a premium economy experience with limited seat recline, and you sometimes have to sit sideways... for up to 12 hours! This was when we understood why certain clients end up buying Boeing BBJs and Airbus ACJs, because they do not wish to accept compromises. This led us to ask many questions... and the result is what we are able to offer today: an efficient and comfortable cabin space for clients, which positively enhances their personal lifestyles!
HOW DOES THE LAYOUT AND DESIGN CONFIGURATION DIFFER BETWEEN THE BOEING BBJS, AIRBUS ACJS, GULFSTREAM 650ER, DASSAULT FALCON 8X AND BOMBARDIER GLOBAL 7000?
You may be asking the wrong question. We have identified two simple parameters that define lifestyle and cabin layout, which we show in different possible aircraft types. We then ask the client to choose the aircraft type that best meets their mission requirements (e.g. critical city pairs, range, airport limitations). The client then makes the final selection based on specific issues that are of importance (e.g. aesthetics, size, brand, cost, etc.). The ASTRAL cabin layout is then adapted and optimised for the selected aircraft.
AIRCRAFT DESIGN SHOULD REFLECT THE DYNAMICS OF CULTURE AND SOCIETY. HOW DID THE ASTRAL DESIGN SERIES ACHIEVE THIS?
Actually, we say that design must reflect lifestyle. By default, this will include elements of culture and society. If three HNWIs are running their business empires in Mexico City, St. Petersburg, and Shanghai, then most people would expect their interior designs to be radically different. They actually have very similar lifestyles... including early morning helicopter or limo transfers with security staff to their offices, time in the office, late-evening transfers with security staff back home, time with their families, weekends on golf courses, entertaining, and so on. By asking the two defining questions for the ASTRAL Design (i.e. How many guests? How many staff ?), you would probably get similar answers, resulting in similar space requirements and cabin layouts. So lifestyle ends up defining the space... or, in our case, the cabin layout. It is only at this point that we start asking about colour, material, texture, and so on, which are a reflection of taste. It is, therefore, a paradox that most corporate jets have essentially identical cabin layouts that nobody asked for. Yet, the buyer is made to believe that by simply choosing his colours, materials and textures, he or she can customise the interior.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN INSPIRATIONS BEHIND THE SELECTION OF THE MATERIALS, FINISHES AND FIXTURES?
We are constantly looking to expand the limits, push the boundaries. Our senses are primarily visual, followed by sound, touch, taste and smell. Often, the mind is primed for expectations based on visual input. This enables us to either enhance and confirm the visual, functional, and tactile expectations of a design element... or do exactly the opposite and create an element of surprise. For example, if I position a small white cube with a door on one side adjacent to a galley, most people will think that it's a refrigerator. If, however, I integrate OLED screens on the exposed sides, and depict water with fish swimming in it, then I can make you believe that it’s an aquarium. And now I open ‘the aquarium’ and get out a cold beer for you. That’s when people smile and say... wow, this is cool! A fridge has now become an integrated ‘functional’ part of a design that creates an emotional feedback.
HOW DID THE AÏANA®WAVE SMART SEAT’S DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT BEGIN?
The AÏANA®WAVE started with a series of questions. Given that today’s aircraft can fly up to 18 hours, is a seat still the right solution? Do you want to sit or lie down for 18 hours? What position do astronauts in space assume when they sleep? Do they lie fully at or rolled up? We learned that both the US and Russian Space Agencies had ‘discovered’ the neutral body position, which astronauts assume naturally when they sleep. In this position, the muscular-skeletal system is in zero-balance. When you super-impose this position into a one G situation, the cardio-vascular system uses 30% less energy, translating into extreme comfort and relaxation. Furthermore, we use cutting edge aerospace and Formula One technology, such as high strength alloys, carbon-fibre and liquid metal applications. The AÏANA®WAVE can be customised with a conventional classic look all the way to an absolutely awesome gravity defying structure. It attracts clients who want their aircraft, yacht, office, or residence to be a statement of their vision of the future that can be experienced now.
WHAT OTHER DESIGN PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPLORING?
We've been asked to o er the AÏANA®WAVE for private residences, yachts and most recently for an exclusive non-aviation luxury project. The results are fun, exciting, stunning... jaw dropping!
WHAT CAR DO YOU PERSONALLY DRIVE, AND WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE DRINK?
I drive a Tata Diesel, although some of my friends think it is Jaguar. My favourite drink I guess is the one I look forward to every morning when I get up.... a café latté!