A UK start-up determined to bring Formula 1-style high technology to aircraft seating is set to take off in dramatic style with a massive launch order from AirAsia to retrofit all 386 of its in-service and on-order Airbus A320s and A320neos with its lightweight Hawk economy class seat – a commitment for some 70,000 seats.

The deal, announced yesterday at AIX, reprises F1 paddock links between Mirus Aircraft Seating founders Phil Hall and Ben McGuire and AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes. Hall’s composites engineering CV features experience at Reynard, Sauber and Toyota F1, while McGuire worked at Lotus and Caterham – Fernandes’ vehicles for a half-decade tilt at F1 glory, a scheme which at one point ran alongside a plan to take the Caterham name into mass-market sports cars.

Mirus boasts a 60,000-seat capacity factory in Norfolk – the traditional home of Lotus – which Hall and McGuire describe as a “high-efficiency automotive-style” operation capable of turning out a fully assembled seat triple every 15mins.

With a fully composite frame, ultra-slim backrest and low part count, Hawk claims to slash 40% from the weight of conventional seats – while featuring amenities including 10” recline, literature pocket and optional USB power point.

Says Fernandes: “My F1 experience wasn’t very successful for me, but this is something positive that has come out of it.”

He adds that Hawk’s low weight was attractive, as was its low maintenance: “We’ve always had a problem with our seats at Air Asia and I always like working with new companies. I’ve worked with a lot over 15 years.”

AirAsia has 80 A320s in service and 306 on order, including 304 neo versions with a near-maximum 186 seats each.