it’s not complete without completions

January 8, 2019

Nick Klenske goes inside the completions business to get the latest on this busy segment of the Business Aviation industry

The nuts and bolts of an aircraft are pretty standard – there’s not a lot of room for changes. But for those looking to add a bit of personal style or flair to their aircraft, there’s the completions sector. The creatives of the aviation world can give your plane a bespoke interior, the latest in technology and an artistic paint job – anything to make the jet uniquely yours.

In our 2017 Completions Report, we focused on innovation. This year, we caught up with the leading completions companies to see what they’ve been up to during what turned out to be a very busy year. However, astute readers will note that one company is missing from this year’s report. In September 2017, not long after our last report was published, StandardAero announced that Associated Air Center (AAC), the company’s Large Transport Category VIP Completions Center, would cease operations and close its Dallas Love Field facilities at the end of the year.

Although StandardAero continues to do completions and refurbishments on both the interior and exterior of every type of corporate aircraft, it came to the conclusion that the business case for continuing to operate ACC was no longer an economically viable option. The company cited that a limited pipeline of new business opportunities, excess industry capacity and slowing demands in the VVIP aircraft marketplace as all being contributing factors to the decision. The move also aligns with StandardAero’s near-term growth strategy and actions geared towards strengthening its portfolio by expanding its core engine MRO capabilities.

But that was last year, this is 2018. And, according to the companies we spoke with, it was a good year for completions. Need proof? Take Flying Colours, who just weeks before NBAA-BACE re-delivered its 100th major retrofit of a Bombardier Challenger model – a major milestone for the Canadian company.

Although the project included a major overhaul of the cabin, avionics, connectivity and fuselage, the highlight has to be its stylish interior featuring a black and gold palette. The company’s Peterborough (Canada) team worked with the new owner and current operator to develop the contemporary design that includes seats with such improved comforts as molded armrests that arch perfectly to fit the curves of the arm. The six reclining individual seats and complementary three place divan were finished using a soft, durable black leather with a perforated insert, medium-beige colored leather accent panels and a single contrasting seam stitch trim. The light trims, buckles and control panels feature a matt gold to contrast with the leather, and the customized monuments (side ledges, panels, doors, etc.) are finished with a gloss veneer, with each fold-out table incorporating a matt-gold inlay accent.

On the outside, the company’s dedicated paint shop revitalized the fuselage with a paint job reflecting the interior’s colors. A partial gold stripe sweeps from the tail to midway along the fuselage and sits above a full black stripe that sweeps in an arc to the front of the aircraft.

“The brief from the owner was to deliver an as new aircraft, which is exactly what we did,” says Flying Colours Executive Vice President Sean Gillespie. “We’re pleased that our hundredth Challenger project was such an interesting one, it’s a significant achievement for our team.”

That being said, don’t expect Flying Colours to slow down any time soon. The company is set to break ground on a brand-new hangar, the fourth at its Peterborough headquarters, which will provide additional capacity for completions, refurbishment and heavy maintenance work scopes on large jet airframes. The purpose-built hangar will include a new 40,000-square-foot, climate controlled, state-of-the-art paint shop. Large enough to accommodate business jets up to Global 7500, Boeing Business Jet or Airbus A220 size airframes, it will fulfill the higher volume of paint jobs passing through the facility.

Meanwhile, at the company’s Chesterfield, St. Louis facility, a fifth hangar will be inaugurated on December 1st. The 30,000-square-foot area will be large enough to handle up to three parallel large-jet maintenance, avionics upgrades and interior projects at once, including Bombardier Global and larger Gulfstream models. The additional capacity dove tails with the expanded interiors and cabinetry workshop that opened in January of this year. Together, the shops will support the multiple aircraft projects being undertaken at the KSUS facility.

A Robust Reputation

2018 proved to be a busy year for AERIA Luxury Interiors, a VIP completions center that provides complete maintenance and refurbishment capability as well as a comprehensive range of turnkey solutions on Airbus and Boeing aircraft. The company recently obtained civil aviation authority approvals to perform maintenance on EASA, Bermuda and Bailiwick of Guernsey registered aircraft.

AERIA also secured four VIP maintenance contracts extending into next year, in addition to a full cabin refurbishment on a Boeing 737, which it expects to deliver in the first quarter of 2019. Increased requests for cabin refurbishments, CMS/IFE upgrades and improved and faster connectivity solutions have all attributed to the influx of ongoing work for the company.

The company’s current completions program, a Boeing 737 head-of-state, is slated for an on time, fourth quarter delivery in 2019. When completed, the interior will feature a VIP stateroom complemented by an on-suite lavatory with showers, separate crew and passenger galleys, an office and meeting room, staff seating, additional lavatories and large 4K monitors throughout. The aircraft interior design will also feature gold plating, ornate details and a balance of wood and luxurious fabrics in a light, refreshing color scheme.

“It’s important to our customers that we offer services that cater to their aircraft needs after a VIP program is completed and delivered,” says AERIA Vice President and General Manager Ron Soret. “We have quickly established a proven track record of providing customers with exceptional craftmanship and reliable service. Our customers can find peace of mind knowing that their aircraft is well looked after when choosing AERIA and it is a reputation we take great pride in proving time and time again.”

The Skinny on Widebodies

Earlier this year, GDC Technics announced that they produced a Boeing 787 VVIP cabin weighing 20% less than industry estimates. The first of their twin VVIP B787-8s, the aircraft is complete with a sophisticated VVIP head-of-state cabin that integrates cutting edge technologies along with state-of-the art materials and engineering solutions.

“This project is a testimony to the success of our strategy focusing on developing new, innovative, engineering and production techniques, ensuring that the cabins we engineer and build match the next generation airplanes we install them in,” says GDC Technics General Partner Mohammed Alzeer. “The interior weight of our B787 was significantly lighter than industry estimates, providing our clients with an operational advantage and fuel savings throughout the life of their aircraft.”

The aircraft is equipped with the latest connectivity and passenger comfort capabilities, including an ARINC 791 Ka-Band Antenna (an industry first on a VVIP B787), Iridium Antenna, SATCOM Antenna-R, forward-looking camera, therapeutic O2 discharge port, quad camera, downward zoom camera, tail fin camera, and Satellite TV antenna. The cabin has a Sound Interference Level (SIL) of 52dB, allowing for a much quieter cabin in flight. Along with a quieter cabin, additional humidification is provided for a better passenger experience during long haul flights. In addition, the B787 is complete with live television capabilities – a first for any VVIP B787.

The news must have gotten the industry’s attention, as not long after announcing the weight reduction achievement, the company announced two separate head-of-state completion contracts, consisting of four widebody aircraft in total. “Securing these aircraft programs has confirmed the confidence this industry has in GDC Technics,” adds Alzeer. “With the diversification of our capabilities, GDC has laid the groundwork to lead this industry in Next Generation aircraft modifications.”

A Designer’s Touch

Duncan Aviation’s talented crew in Lincoln, Nebraska has been busy renovating a Bombardier Global Express. The unique design elements incorporated throughout the interior perfectly showcase the company’s multi-shop capabilities. In a before-and-after video produced by Duncan, one can see that when the aircraft arrived at the shop it looked dated, with a sun-dulled exterior paint and the use of dark, heavy colors throughout the cabin. But in the after images, you’d be forgiven for second guessing whether it’s really the same aircraft. The Global Express’ glossy, gleaming new exterior, which is carried through on the Duncan-Aviation-created stainless-steel stairs, sets the tone for the bright and spacious contemporary interior. Eye-catching stingray skins adorn the custom-made tables in the cabin, and elements of the skin are carried through to the sink in the aft lav. Furthermore, the custom-designed carpet in the cabin complements the honeycomb design of the roomy, comfortable seats.

The company also performed an industry-first: an installation of a Rosen Tablet Holder in a Dassault Falcon 2000. The installation, which the company says went flawlessly, was completed at Duncan’s full-service facility in Battle Creek, Michigan. Once the holder is installed, it sits in a non-skid cradle with an adjustable slide. Because the holder includes a single USB 2.1 amp port, the tablet can charge while passengers work or play content. Designed to drop into an existing Rosen Micro D and Pogo Pin Base receptacle, there are no additional expenses for interior modification or wiring changes to support the 2.1 amp USB charging feature.

“The Rosen Tablet Holder meets the high-quality standards that aviation customers have come to expect from Rosen’s products,” says Duncan Aviation Avionics Sales Representative Mike Morgan. “The soft rubber pads protect and retain carry-on devices, while the adjustable cradle provides hands-free operation and charges devices, such as mobile phones, e-readers and tablets.”

A Bigger Space for Bigger Planes

Jet Aviation Basel has earned worldwide recognition for the quality of its interiors. Since 1977, the company’s completions team has delivered no fewer than 200 aircraft with custom interiors, from business jets to full VVIP bespoke cabins. Today, as an Airbus ACJ and Boeing BBJ Approved Completion Center, Jet Aviation Basel is designing, engineering, production manufacturing, installing, testing and certifying some of the most stunning high-end aircraft interiors on narrow- and wide-body aircraft for private individuals and governments alike. For example, in May, the company partnered with Sparfell & Partners, Winch Design and DS Aviation to develop a VVIP market solution for the Airbus ACJ380. Under the agreement, Jet Aviation is engineering, managing, manufacturing, installing and certifying the VVIP cabin interior for the ACJ380.

The work is being done at Jet Aviation Basel’s world-renowned completions and maintenance center, which is inaugurating its new 700 square-meter, state-of-the-art wide-body hangar later this year. Suitable for projects up to the Boeing 747, the new hangar was built to meet increased demand for wide-body completions and refurbishments. The hangar provides an additional 4,550 square meters of hangar space to accommodate a number of wide- and narrow-body aircraft simultaneously. The project also extends the tarmac by 5,000 square meters, while also finding room to add 2,000 square meters for shops and offices.

Number 11 in the Books

Comlux Completion is all about continuously innovating in the large to very large business jet aircraft segment. Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, the company has quickly established itself as one of the most unique and modern completion and service centers in the world exclusively for Airbus Corporate Jets, Boeing Business Jets, Bombardier Business aircraft and Sukhoi Business Jets.

Most recently, the company completed their 11th VIP interior, outfitting a BBJ aircraft for a private customer based in the Far East. “We are very proud to have successfully delivered another beautiful nose-to-tail bespoke VIP completion,” says Comlux Chief Operating Officer Arnaud Martin. “The interior of the BBJ was engineered to magnify weight performance at a total weight of only 14,400 lbs.”

At the front of the luxurious cabin one finds a spacious executive compartment, 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 the aircraft. In the center section, a private dining and conference room features a massive table surrounded by six executive style seats. The overhead area portrays a grand ceiling dome with a handmade mother of pearl pattern. Decorated with a similar 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. There is a cohesive blend of contrasting color palettes achieved by using supple white leather, rich warm mahogany veneer, plush taupe carpet, textured fabrics and gold accents throughout- inspiring luxury and relaxation.

An in in Asia

The big news coming out of Lufthansa Technik at NBAA-BACE was its signing of a major cabin refurbishment contract with a new, undisclosed Asian VIP customer. The lay-over of an Airbus ACJ319 will take place at the company’s VIP center in Hamburg, Germany and will be completed by the end of next year.

The aircraft´s interior and systems will be refreshed to improve passenger comfort and meet the demands of its owner, so that the aircraft will be as good as new for its next life. Particularly, the aircraft will receive a comprehensive modification and upgrade package, which includes a state-of-the-art entertainment system, enhanced sound insulation and a KA band connectivity solution.

“We are very proud to welcome this new VIP customer for a major refurbishment from Asia here at our facility in Hamburg,” says Lufthansa Technik Head of Asia Sales for VIP and Special Mission Aircraft Jan Grube. “The Asian VIP aircraft market has become more and more important for our business over the past years. More than 30 completions and major refurbishments in the Asian region clearly demonstrate that our expertise and broad service portfolio are well accepted by our customers in this part of the world.”

From Vision to Reality

 From upgrades to completely new installations, RUAG is capable of providing its customers with the latest communication systems while ensuring that they can travel in complete comfort. In close cooperation with world class designers, the company provides cabin interior completions and refurbishments, cabin restyling and integrated, high-class communication and entertainment system upgrades.

“Ensuring our customer is able to realize their vision of the ideal cabin interior is our passion,” says RUAG Aviation Munich Head of Business Jet Sales Mark-André Mann. Last year, the company completed an upgrade and restyling of a recently purchased Bombardier Global 5000 registered in India. The upgrade involved installing a custom configuration featuring an additional divan. In order to optimize the aircraft’s downtime, RUAG also performed IFE upgrades and a restyling of additional interior elements.

“Cabin interior modifications on newly delivered aircraft happen quite often, as some customers change their mind on certain elements of the interior design shortly before or during factory delivery,” adds RUAG Aviation Director of Cabin Interior Services and Design Robin Freigang. “As customer expectations are very high during a factory delivery, we work closely with the OEM and the client during this phase.”

But RUAG’s commitment goes beyond the inside of the aircraft – it also offers a renowned painting service. Last year the company’s aircraft painting facility at the RUAG Aviation one-stop shop in Munich repainted a Bombardier Global Express XRS, on behalf of long-time customer SBK Holding Ltd. The company’s painting specialists reproduced a series of hand-painted, precise customization graphics highlighting the intricate patterns found in high performance, fiber-reinforced technology materials, such as carbon and honeycomb structures.

“Our business jets customers can expect a flexible and integrated approach from a responsive organization,” says Volker Wallrodt, Senior Vice President Business Jets, Dornier 228 & Components, RUAG Aviation in Munich. “Our status as a full-service Bombardier Authorized Service Centre, combined with our one-stop shop of quality aircraft support solutions, ensures our Bombardier customers have access to all services within the same designated downtime.”

Expansion Mode

 Headquartered in East Alton, Illinois, West Start Aviation provides high-quality aircraft exterior paint and interior services for corporate aircraft, from the smallest up to the Global 7000, F900, Hawker 900, Citation 10/750, Embraer 650 and Gulfstream 650. To better handle the larger end of the business jet spectrum, the company recently expanded its Chattanooga paint facility, which can now house aircraft up to and including Embraer Lineage 1000. At the same time, the company has been busy completing its fourth full-service facility in Perryville, Missouri and adding a satellite facility in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Most recently, the company completed an installation of Winglet Technology Transitional Winglets on a Cessna Citation 680 Sovereign aircraft at its Grand Junction, Colorado facility. The winglets are designed to provide Citation Sovereign owners with increased aerodynamic performance across a broad range of Mach numbers and operating conditions. In addition, the winglets offer performance improvements to Citation Sovereign aircraft, including increased speed at high altitude, increased certified weight, reduced climb time, higher initial flight levels and increased range and payload capability.

“We are pleased that we have completed our first winglet installation at Grand Junction and look forward to growing this capability in the future,” says West Star Aviation Citation Program Manager David Williams. “This is a testament to our commitment to expanding our capabilities to align with our customers’ needs.”

Center of Excellence

SR Technics offers comprehensive services for cabin refurbishment and reconfigurations, including design, manufacturing and single services. The company’s Center of Excellence for cabin modifications employs high-skilled experts, providing its customers with a unique advantage when it comes to on-time complex in-flight entertainment upgrades, retrofits, installation of connectivity solutions, routine maintenance and changes of livery.

“If the client needs a cabin or part of it refurbished, including everything from removal to installation and testing, we can handle the work,” says an SR Technics spokesperson. The company notes that cabin refurbishments are often done in combination with base maintenance and/or paint work to make the most of ground time.

And OEMs too!

In last year’s report we highlighted the Dassault Falcon showroom at Paris-Le Bourget. Essentially a combination of a traditional and virtual showroom, the facility uses state-of-the-art, interactive technology that lets the customer design the interior of their aircraft on the spot. “These facilities enhance and streamline the total spec and design experience and bring it to a level that is unlike anything available in Business Aviation today,” said Dassault Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier. “Our customers now have a very accurate vision of the aircraft interior they are designing, several months before the first part is even manufactured.”

Well it seems Dassault may have started a trend. In July of this year, Bombardier announced the opening of a new showroom and regional office in New York City. “This office extends our commitment to the US, where we have a strong customer base, as well as an extensive service and manufacturing footprint,” says Bombardier Business Aircraft President David Coleal.

The elegant 14,000 square foot space in the heart of the city includes a showroom where customers will have the opportunity to meet with Bombardier designers to select the materials, color palettes and refined interior options to personalize their aircraft. This news follows on the heels of the launch of the Premier cabin on the Global 5000 and Global 6000 aircraft, both of which blend flawless craftsmanship with exceptional comfort.

Most recently, Gulfstream Aerospace announced it has opened a Sales and Design Center in Midtown Manhattan. The nearly 8,500-square-foot/790-square-meter 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.

“At Gulfstream, we continuously strive to elevate the customer experience,” says Gulfstream President Mark Burns. “Establishing a customer-focused space in New York City, an international business hub, complements our significant worldwide footprint and better positions us to support our customers in Manhattan, whether they are based in the region or visiting from around the world.”

The Gulfstream Manhattan Sales and Design Center features a nearly 20-foot/6-meter power wall with digital design and aircraft cabin layout selection capabilities. Customers will also 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.

The Manhattan Center is staffed by Gulfstream Sales executives and Gulfstream interior designers. The company also has sales and design centers in London, Savannah, Dallas and Long Beach, California.

A Good Outlook

All-in-all, 2018 was a good year for the completions business. And judging by how many completion companies are expanding – and considering the number of new aircraft set to come online in the next year or two – our bet is that 2019 will be just as good, if not better. But to get the complete picture, you’ll have to wait until our next Completions Re