This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of AvBuyer Magazine.If you’re planning an interior refurbishment on your business aircraft at any time soon, you’ll want to read these top questions from Meghan Welch, Director of Paint & Interior Sales, Elliott Aviation…
A major aircraft interior refurbishment is a significant event in the life of your airplane. Not only is it an investment, but it will also take even the most skilled facilities anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete, depending on the scope of the project.
Proper planning is critical and should include a facility that understands all your needs and mission requirements. In addition to the actual completion of your work, you could encounter vendor lead times that can factor into your final delivery date if not properly accounted for in the planning process.
As some products (like custom carpets and other custom materials) can impact your schedule, this further accentuates the need to work with your facility well before your input date to make sure that your aircraft is delivered on time and squawk-free.
1. DO you UNDERSTAND all Your Options?
Aircraft cabin options are rapidly evolving, and new items are continually being offered for legacy aircraft.
Newer technologies can help maximize cabin space, create weight savings, replace obsolete cabin technologies and be generally more efficient and aesthetically pleasing. Some examples of this are LED lighting and electronically dimmable windows.
Beyond the options for components, if your seating configuration doesn’t meet your mission needs, there may also be an option to change your floor plan to get you the exact seating and storage configuration you need.
There are likely specialty options within a given airframe that could include supplemental type certificates (STCs) that expand what is possible for your aircraft.
However, there are also pre-approved floorplans that allow floorplan changes. In addition to seating changes, floorplan changes can add and change cabinetry in your aircraft. This option often can add significant additional cost and downtime, so it should be considered very carefully.
Also, be aware of items that often get overlooked (such as galley products, custom carpets, new window shade colors, and plating options). Each of these vendors are continually making upgrades for matching interior trends across the industry.
2. Questions of Durability
If your aircraft experiences a lot of flight hours, be sure to use highly durable materials when making your interior selections. There are many options that do not fully sacrifice style for durability.
Using higher durability components can save you more in the long run. The cost to refurbish an aircraft that incorporates lesser-quality materials can lead to significant longer-term expenses.
For carpets, look for hand-tufted materials from trusted vendors. Some vendors will also have high-quality machine tufted options, however. For soft goods, you could consider ink or stain-resistant ultra-leathers.
Woodwork could either be a high-quality laminate or a high-gloss veneer. However, if using veneer, make sure your vendor uses a climate-controlled spray booth with proper drying times to guarantee the finish applied has the right conditions to cure. This helps eliminate long-term problems such as cracking, shrinkage, and milky or cloudy finishes. You could also consider a vinyl carpet runner and/or additional carpets to cycle cleaning and keep your carpet in the best shape possible for high-traffic areas.
3. What are Your Storage Requirements and Options?
Evaluating storage requirements is a must when considering your next aircraft interior. Assess your missions in flight and prioritize your top-five requirements.
Do you need extra luggage space, a coat closet, or a drink station? Do you need cabinets to properly house your cabin entertainment system? This list of needs can help guide your aircraft interior designers to create something that is not only stylish but functional.
Some aircraft have STCs to allow for additional storage, but many additional storage options don’t require the extra expense of an STC. Your additional storage may only require a simple field approval depending on your needs and the interior design.
4. What’s the Extent of the Required Refurbishment?
Depending on the condition of your current interior and the direction of your overall design, you may not need a complete interior refurbishment.
If completing a partial interior refurbishment, it’s important to make sure that you are still going to be happy with the end result in 5-7 years or when you decide to resell your aircraft. When making this decision, you will need to decide what components you plan on keeping and make sure your design complements the existing interior.
A partial refurbishment is a good option to consider during a maintenance event without adding downtime. When doing a partial interior refurbishment, keep in mind that the full interior will age together throughout the lifespan of your refurbishment.
If the components you choose not to refurbish are not in like-new condition, your interior can appear to age inconsistently. If not properly thought through, you may regret not taking advantage of the downtime to complete the entire aircraft interior.
5. A Word on Office and Entertainment Options…
Since you and your passengers may spend a significant amount of time on the airplane, it’s important to consider and discuss your entertainment options in flight. Many operators consider their aircraft to be their second office or a place to decompress after a long day of meetings.
Consider the size of your aircraft and what’s available to help achieve the functionality you need.
For instance, many smaller aircraft operators have abandoned items like cabin entertainment systems for high-speed Wi-Fi. You can also add products to your Wi-Fi systems like Gogo Vision, which allows for the latest movie releases, news clips, destination weather, moving maps, and flight information.
To further keep you connected to the ground, there are also many text and talk options that utilize your own mobile device in flight. Refurbishments for Mid-size and Large-Cabin jets are more likely to include full cabin entertainment systems. These can include multiple screens, Bluetooth options, speakers, and options to control other cabin comforts like LED RGB lighting and window shades.
Putting it all Together…
Completing an aircraft interior is a major event in the life of your aircraft, and it’s never too early to start planning your refurbishment. A reputable shop will help you understand all your options, budgets and help align your expectations going into the project.
Be sure to start your conversations early and understand that limited capacity industry-wide can block the most popular shops’ schedules out for several weeks.
Finally, if you’re able to schedule your aircraft interior refurbishment with other needed items like routine maintenance, paint, or avionics, you can save additional downtime in the long run and avoid repositioning the airplane to complete your other due items.