AIN Blog: It's All About a Free Market
Last week, I walked through my local grocery and happened to come across the displays of new light bulbs. You know, the ones with the odd shapes and higher prices. The ones that our government has determined to be more environmentally correct. The halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has determined will replace the warm glow given to the world by Thomas Edison in 1880.
Environmentalists, as might be expected, support the ban on manufacturing and importing of most current incandescent light bulbs, now expected to go into effect this fall. I do not. Not because I reject the new technology, but because I reject yet another intrusion of the ever-growing nanny state into another area of my life. Especially when the same goal could be accomplished by simply allowing the free market to take its natural course.
I offer as an example LED (light-emitting diode) technology that is now standard in every business jet rolling off the assembly line today, and that is being included in virtually every major cabin refurbishment.
According to Jorge Gonzalez, v-p of operations at Classic Interior Completions in Cleveland, the company did more than 100 refurbishments in 2011, “and every major refurbishment called for changing out the existing lighting for LED.” He also notes that LED light does not cause fabric to fade or deteriorate in the same way as other light sources.
At International Jet Interiors the story is the same, whether it’s midsize, large-cabin or an airline conversion to an executive transport. President Eric Roth says almost every modification project coming through the Ronkonkoma, N.Y. facility includes an upgrade of the lighting to LED.
While the cost of LED lighting from suppliers has “remained fairly consistent,” the technology has matured to a point where the cost seems reasonable. Roth points out that the latest generation of reading lights are about 35 percent brighter. And the LED lighting strips used in up-wash and down-wash lighting now come in a choice of color temperatures that include “warmer” white, as well as a spectrum of colors to influence cabin appearance and the mood of the passengers.
While the cost of LED has not come down appreciably over the past half-decade, the market drivers remain: LED requires less power, produces less heat and is far easier to maintain. Maybe best of all, the lifespan is 25,000 hours, and that’s the low-end number. Also, LED doesn’t “burn out” but gradually fades, so that as it nears the end of its life span it is still producing about 70 percent of the original brightness, barely enough fade for the human eye to discern.
Also market-driven is a new after-market LED application from Aircraft Lighting International. The Mount Sinai, N.Y.-based firm has introduced an LED direct replacement “bulb” for the 28V DC/AC miniature incandescent halogen lamps common in most business aircraft.
The replacement LEDs require “absolutely no changes or modifications to the existing reading light system,” according to Aircraft Lighting owner Nick Michelinakis. Each LED replacement costs $35, which Michelinakis says comes to $350 for a 10-passenger King Air. This, he notes, is considerably less than the $15,000 or so it would cost to convert the entire system to LED.
To the point, all of this LED technology is market driven. It has created new business for existing companies and better and more cost-efficient equipment for our industry’s customers. And it didn’t even require a government mandate. Imagine that.