There is no need to sacrifice style because you are in the air. There are as many choices in how to configure an aircraft cabin as there are ideas. Here, the top designers and completions houses speak about some of the options on offer today.
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Staying in your comfort zone There is no need to sacrifice style because you are in the air. There are as many choices in how to configure an aircraft cabin as there are ideas. Here, the top designers and completions houses speak about some of the options on offer today.
Since you’re going to spend hours on board an aircraft you will want to ensure that you are in the best environment possible for work and leisure. The best way of achieving this is to work intensively alongside aircraft designers and completions centers at the planning stage.
According to Michael Bork, aircraft interior architect at Germany’s Lufthansa Technik (LHT), this process is essential. “When we advise new clients, we ask them to give us the opportunity and time to listen and to learn about them - their wishes, their living environment and their personal likes and dislikes. VIP cabin projects are about personality, not trends - they are always tailored to the specific customer.
“A customer is not an anonymous statistic. Our customers are not average. Our products are not average. The research at the beginning of the project is very interesting for everybody and pays off in the end.”
San Antonio-based Gore Design Completions, for example, is outfitting a new green Airbus A320 for an Asia-based operator.
Jeff Potter, Director of Business Development said, “We customize the aircraft to the owner’s specific request, and, as you would expect, we are seeing requests from Middle East and Asian customers that may be new to some modification centers, since they tend to incorporate regional culture, which many centers may not be familiar with.”
However, he added that there is a commonality among many high net worth travelers, pointing out that most people look for comfort and convenience. People who own business aircraft tend to be extremely busy and either want to work or relax in a comfortable environment.
Elisabeth Harvey manager, interior design for Jet Aviation in Basel, Switzerland observes that trends in aircraft cabin design tend to follow those in peoples’ homes. “We look at residential themes, then after a two- or three-year lead-time these tend to flow through to aircraft. We are seeing this with requests for clean and simple high-quality comfort.”
Jet Aviation takes a consultative approach to its work. After initial discussions the company draws up plans, which it then turns into renderings and even a full size mock-up if required. “I do advise people to use aviation designers with lots of experience,” Harvey adds.
Fellow Basel completions centre AMAC has been consistently busy recently. The management team has decades of experience in the interiors industry, and CEO Heinz Kohli says the Middle East will remain strong. He said, “The region remains good for us.”
Associated Air Center in Dallas, Texas makes an exciting promise: “Bring us your vision for the completion of your aircraft and we will bring it to life.” The company has moved a stairway on a Boeing 747-400; installed the latest entertainment and office systems on massive aircraft and outfitted a galley worthy of a 3-star chef.
Attention to detail
In many of the top firms for aircraft interiors, it is the attention to detail that helps owners realize their visions. In an aircraft upholstery shop, for example, the leather on seats, cabinets and sidewalls is usually sewn and glued by hand. In the woodwork shops, staff can bend veneer around corners and make complex designs.
Switzerland-based Comlux has a VIP cabin completion center in Indianapolis, USA. Head designer of Comlux Creatives Tim Callies said, “A shower is important. Most people have a shower they don’t use, but they like having one on board just in case. Often people request a dining area, or an office that can also be a comfortable area where everyone can sit together.”
Kohli (AMAC) added that often customers with larger cabins look for club seating in the front of the aircraft, with social or conference grouping and high-low tables seating five or six people in the middle of the cabin.
Meanwhile Lufthansa-Technik’s Bork is a firm believer that a state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment and cabin management system is a “must have” on board VIP aircraft. “Our innovation center in Hamburg, Germany is investing a lot of time and money to develop and offer customized solutions, like our ‘nice HD’ system.”
For customers who do not want to wait several years for a new aircraft, refurbishment of an existing or previously-owned machine is proving an increasingly popular option. Experts can either add changes to an existing cabin format, or create an entirely new layout.
Sean Gillespie, director of completion sales and management for Canada’s Flying Colours has sold several aircraft into the region. “The Middle East market is still strong for us,” he said.
Some customers also look for expensive hides such as stingray or crocodile skin, but quality, unusual leathers can have an eight-to-ten week lead time and are much more expensive because they are available in smaller amounts. “People typically want them on headliners and sidewalls,” Gillespie added.
The sky really is the limit for most designers, and as Bork suggests, the possibilities are only limited by the size of the aircraft and the budget. “Why surrender the comfort you are used to in your home or office while flying?” he asks.