an exciting and challenging experience

May 27, 2019

Marc Grangier is discovering how the latest trends in aircraft interiors are affecting the industry

Designing an aircraft interior is indeed a challenging experience. Just ask Lydia Pierce, who should know as she designed the interior of the Citation Longitude. When she started designing this interior, her obvious inspiration was the customer and the people who would be flying in the airplane. “Often, interior designs are based on specific requests, and it’s not uncommon for something as simple as a light fixture or a carpet pattern to launch the look and feel of a cabin,” she says. “Each time, the goal is to produce an open, comfortable and quiet space that encourages freedom to move with ease.”

According to Pierce, the ample leg spacing between seats, as well as the flexible functionality of the seat design, creates a sense of control over the environment and a freedom to flow from one task to another as the flight progresses. “If the interior is well designed, the passenger will never be in a hurry to leave the aircraft,” she adds. “Also, those same passengers must feel at home as soon as they step into the aircraft, a reason why it’s important to work closely with end-users to select everything from the carpeting and leather to the wood veneers and glassware in the galley.”

Jet Aviation, which has been delivering custom-made aircraft interiors for almost four decades, is also convinced that creating a cabin interior in a V.I.P. private aircraft is one of the most exciting design challenges. Just as each aircraft is different, each client is unique, and each design brief is as individual as the clients themselves. “Customers are more and more willing to get personalized cabins, and for that are often requesting unusual materials to put a unique stamp on their aircraft interior,” says Elisabeth Harvey, Director of Design at the Jet Aviation Basel Completions Center. “Like many contemporary homes, our design incorporates modern and traditional elements that are contrasted through the use of colors, materials and the general intent of the design.”

Concerning the market situation, the companies we spoke to mention an increase in demand, to which some have already responded by expanding spaces, increasing the volume of sequential aircraft in completion or entering into strategic partnerships with other companies.

Expanding Spaces

Though a large part of day-to-day business remains refurbishment of midsize aircraft, the increasing demand to refurbish larger aircraft has pushed several companies to build new hangars to accommodate them. For example, Flying Colours has broken ground in Peterborough, Ontario for the construction of its largest hangar to date. On completion in mid-2019, the new building will house a climate controlled, dedicated paint-shop, a spacious hangar large enough to hold up to A220-size aircraft, as well as offices, customer meeting rooms, interiors workshops and a board room. The investment of approximately $20 million will add a further 100,000 square feet to the Peterborough footprint.

At its Chesterfield, St. Louis facility, the company opened a fifth hangar in January 2019, adding a further 40,000 square feet to the facility. “Our business has grown significantly over the last twelve months and we were running out of space to accommodate all our clients’ requests,” says John Gillespie, CEO Flying Colours. “Once the building is complete, we will be using it to provide additional capacity for completions, refurbishment and heavy maintenance work scopes on large jet airframes.”

Meanwhile in Singapore, Flying Colours Corp. PTE has expanded its scope of refurbishment services at its Bombardier Seletar Airport facility. Flying Colours has completed four full and three partial interior refurbishment projects on two Challenger and five Global aircraft types. This represents a significant step-change as the Singapore team has progressed from undertaking simple repairs of cabinetry and soft furnishings to using its extensive experience to realize partial and full cabin overhauls on Bombardier aircraft for Asian and Middle Eastern customers.

One of the latest projects followed the purchase of a pre-owned Bombardier Global XRS aircraft. As it began extensive maintenance in the Bombardier Seletar facility, Flying Colours worked in parallel to complete an upgrade to the 14-passenger cabin. As the China-based customer wanted to modernize the dated look, Flying Colours outfitted the interior, the cabinetry was refinished, a new carpet was fitted and the divan and seats were recovered. The galley and aft lavatory countertops were replaced to complement the newly fitted vanity wardrobe and cabinet.

Last November, Jet Aviation celebrated the grand opening of its new wide-body hangar in Basel. Known as ‘Hangar 3’, it is capable of housing several wide- and narrow-body projects simultaneously. Its wooden arch structure supports the maximum height to ensure space for a Boeing 747 on jacks, while its extended nose-box permits two wide-body aircraft concurrently.

Anticipating growth for its new PC-24, but also for its PC-12 NG, Pilatus recently opened a brand-new completion center in Broomfield, Colorado. The center is custom-designed to conduct aircraft interior and exterior completions for all Pilatus PC-24 and PC-12 NG aircraft delivered to North and South America (these markets account for upwards of 70% of Pilatus’s business aircraft sales). Typically, around 55 PC-12 NGs are completed in Broomfield each year, and the company plans for an additional 25 to 30 PC-24s to flow through the facility annually.

Gama Aviation, based at West Palm Beach, Florida, purchased the paint and interior completion business previously operated by Lotus Aviation Group at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. The facility retains a strong track record in the completions market, serving clients from across the US, Central and South America and is conveniently situated for Gama Aviation’s existing Florida-based heavy maintenance locations at Opa Locka and Palm Beach International.

A few months ago, West Star Aviation announced the completion of a new 60,000 sq. ft. (5,575 sq. m) hangar at its East Alton, IL location. The hangar features 40,000 sq. ft (3,715 sq. m) of hangar space and 20,000 sq. ft. (1,858 sq. m) of back shop and office space.

At the end of last year, Gulfstream Aerospace opened a Sales and Design Center in Midtown Manhattan. The nearly 8,500 sq. ft. (790 sq. m.) space expands Gulfstream’s portfolio of showrooms and sales offices intended to enhance the customer experience with centralized locations and white-glove sales and design service. Gulfstream’s Manhattan Sales and Design Center serves one of the world’s busiest Business Aviation regions. The space features dynamic digital tools and thousands of material samples that help launch the customization and personalization of every Gulfstream aircraft. Customers have access to real-time seat configurators paired with a physical seating display to see and feel seat architecture and comfort options. The facility also enables an external paint configurator, wireless streaming of Gulfstream-developed mobile applications and leading video conferencing technology.

Duncan Aviation has reopened its newly remodeled Design Center at its Lincoln, Nebraska, facility. The large showroom floor is lined with custom cabinetry and expanded display space to showcase material options and a wide range of aircraft-specific products. It is an open, interactive space where customers are invited to work with designers to select materials and finishes for their interior refurbishment and exterior paint completions. Adjacent to the customer showroom, the design team occupies updated office space and a reconfigured materials library that features additional workspace and fabric sampling. The company also has full design capabilities at its Battle Creek, Michigan, location, and is in the process of hiring design staff for aircraft interior services for its Provo, Utah, facility, which is currently under construction.

At the end of February, Bombardier started work to more than quadruple the size of its Singapore Service Center. The new facility will be operational in 2020. It will include a full-service 37,000 sq. ft. (3,500 m2) paint facility, advanced interior finishing capabilities, and an expanded portfolio of component, repair and overhaul (CR&O) services. It will also offer heavy structural and composite repair capabilities and be able to undertake complex retrofit work, including avionics and Ka-band installations.

Big Designs

The unveiling of new aircraft has encouraged some companies to anticipate customer demand and offer them new VIP cabin concepts. For example, after the recent announcement of Boeing’ new BBJ 777X, Jet Aviation developed a VIP cabin concept specifically for the aircraft. It takes advantage of jet’s size, featuring lounges, a game and cinema area, a stately office, private work spaces, three guest bedrooms and a master suite that includes its own lounge, luxurious bedroom, spacious dressing/bathroom area and a very large shower and hammam. In addition to such features as weight and space optimization through fiber optics and technology-integrated furniture, Jet Aviation has incorporated forward-thinking concepts like intelligent, digital LED lighting throughout the cabin, as well as OLED and Smart Glass technology on all the window panels, which allows the windows to be dimmed and virtual curtains or window shades to be displayed.

Greenpoint Technologies is also supporting the recent Boeing Business Jet BBJ 777X reveal with a new V-VIP Interior Design Concept. Its Lotus interior features hardwood steps leading to an elevated lounge, complete with a raised ceiling, business or dining seats, and a backlit bar overlooking a sunken media lounge. The media lounge features a large, curved monitor, adaptable divan with high-low ottomans, and custom LED lighting. The interior also contains a library, guest suite and master suite. The master suite features a king size bed framed by a custom, artistic canopy headboard and a spacious walk-in dressing room with heated hardwood flooring. The master lavatory also offers heated marble flooring and towel warmers, a black marble vanity with embedded monitors, and an oversized rain shower. Last November, the company delivered the world’s second V-VIP 787-8 interior completion to a confidential customer. The main lounge showcases a metallic glass tile wall, which is the first of its kind to be certified on a 787. The cabin also includes a gym with vaulted ceilings, extensive crew accommodations and large service galleys.

Meanwhile, Comlux’s Completion and Service Center has accomplished its 11th VIP interior outfitting on a BBJ aircraft for a Far East private customer. The luxurious cabin features a spacious executive compartment at the front, with four sets of Club-4. Instead of the traditional hi/lo tables, there are large pull out tables with easily attachable extensions newly designed and installed specifically for this aircraft. In the center section, a private dining/conference room features a massive table surrounded by six executive style seats. Decorated with a grand ceiling dome, the master suite at the rear includes a tranquil master bedroom and a spa-like private master lavatory.

The entire aircraft has an infusion of an Asian-inspired atmosphere. According to Arnaud Martin, COO of Comlux, the interior of this BBJ was engineered to magnify weight performance at a total weight of only 14,400 lbs, and last February, the company received the first ever BBJ Max 8 for completion. Belonging to a US-based owner, this aircraft will be delivered before the end of 2019. An ACJ320 Neo will also arrive later this year, followed by two more Max 8s in 2020.

New Collaboration Agreements

Last January, Dassault Aviation and Luxaviation announced Dassault’s acquisition of the worldwide maintenance and MRO activities of ExecuJet, a Luxaviation subsidiary. The integration process will be phased in during 2019.

Collins and Comlux signed a five-year agreement in which Collins will provide Comlux VIP customers with a comprehensive product portfolio, including avionics, cabin management, content and entertainment options, seating, lighting and galley products, as well as ARINCDirect connectivity and flight services. Engineering work on the first two aircraft awarded under this agreement is now underway. Product offerings from the full portfolio were selected for a BBJ retrofit and the first BBJ MAX being delivered. Work will be completed at Comlux’s Indianapolis location.

“Through our agreement and exclusive access to Collins’ extensive product portfolio, we will be able to provide cost-efficient solutions in terms of cabin technology, and ensure our customers enjoy the best VIP cabin experience over the entire life cycle of their aircraft,” says Scott Meyer, CEO of Comlux Completion. “In return, Collins will have the opportunity to provide solutions for all Comlux completions and retrofit projects.”

HAECO Private Jet Solutions, a private jet cabin completion specialist based in Hong Kong, has entered into a collaboration agreement on private jet cabin designs with Eight Partnership, also based in Hong Kong and one of Asia’s leading design firms. The scope of the collaboration is to jointly develop conceptual and industrial cabin designs for private jets. HAECO PJS is the first and only Airbus-approved and Boeing-licensed cabin completion center in Asia Pacific. It offers a complete range of solutions from industrial design, engineering design and certification to cabin completion.