Airline owners and passengers should be glad to see the new Intevia fasteners designed by Textron Fastening Systems Inc., Troy, Mich. (www.textron.com). They give airlines an alternative to mechanical and solenoid-based latches. The latches also add a new level of intelligence, according to the manufacturer. For example, a touch-sensitive handle sends signals to silently unlock latches at the top and bottom of the cabinet door. When the cabinet opens, optical sensors adjust lighting inside the cabinet to match that in the passenger compartment.

For safety, a three-button fob can remotely lock, unlock, and control interior lighting. Two-color LEDs in the handle indicate whether the cabinet is locked or unlocked. The latch is thin, saving space and weight, and self-adjusting slip studs ensure the latch is properly aligned.

The latch relies on a shape-memory alloy that changes shape when heated. When a person touches the latch to open it, an electrical signal heats a wire made of the alloy, which changes its shape, releasing the fastening mechanism. Sensors in the latch use Bluetooth to communicate status, including when worn parts need replacing, to a central unit.