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An Inside Job

The world’s top completions centers are eyeing China for potential business as buyers in the country are looking to create beautiful and functional cabins to meet their work and social needs. Following is a preview of what is available for the aircraft cabin.

Liz Moscrop   |   1st September 2011
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Liz Moscrop Liz Moscrop

Liz Moscrop has written extensively about Business Aviation for several years and specializes in...
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The business of completing an aircraft’s cabin

The world’s top completions centers are eyeing China for potential business as buyers in the country are looking to create beautiful and functional cabins to meet their work and social needs. Following is a preview of what is available for the aircraft cabin.

The Chinese corporate market is growing significantly from around 30 jets flying two years ago to an expected 300 by the end of this year. As private aviation gets a grip in the China market- corporations and high net-worth individuals are willing to spend vast amounts of money to ensure that their jets will satisfy their needs and tastes.

This is no surprise: Chinese customers are renowned for their love of detail- and are also likely to travel long distances- so presumably they are willing to pay for high-quality interiors. Given they also buy bigger aircraft they frequently opt for a full-sized kitchen (to accommodate a chef)- as well as install a bedroom and bathroom.

Global brands- such as Versace- Hermes- Edese Doret- and BMW have created lavish new interiors for jets and helicopters that are both beautiful and functional. BMW Group- for example- gave the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner a big-screen theatre- gourmet kitchen and cocktail bar- plus a built-in gymnasium.

The home/office in the sky is also vital and should include high-speed Internet access- conference presentation capability- laptop computer stations and satellite telephone access.

The players

Western outfitters have been providing VIP aircraft to Chinese customers for many years. Back in 2000 Jerry Gore and Kathy Gore-Walters- founders of Port San Antonio-based Gore Design Completions- were contracted to design and install the interior of a Boeing 767 airliner for the Chinese government. The pair put together a team of thirty highly skilled artisans- who worked for around nine months to create the aircraft.

Eleven years on- Gore’s latest innovations include the AeroLift- which offers private access for owners and their families in order that they can stay separate from employees. Such a concept is perfect for many Chinese customers.

New Zealand-based Altitude is another completions centre watching the China market. The company has created a mock-up of a Boeing 737 airliner- which means it can offer trials of on-board systems against a real aircraft frame- and install the luxury interior in a properly mounted aircraft structure. Pascal Jallier leads Altitude- and his apprenticeship with Jet Aviation will have stood him in good stead within this market.

Arguably one of the two top completions centers in the world- Jet Aviation - Basel (Switzerland) frequently partners with other industries catering to the high-end marketplace to find new ways to improve its offerings. It was one of the first to produce mock-ups of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.

The company partnered with designer Peder Eidsgaard to produce an open cabin with long sightlines and traffic zones comprising 24 seats- 14 of which can be used as sofas or relining chairs after take-off. An additional 10 beds are available.

Earlier this year the other one of arguably the world’s two top completion specialists Lufthansa Technik (LHT) announced that it- too- would provide cabin outfitting on a new Boeing Business Jet destined for the VIP arm of Air China subsidiary Beijing Airlines. LHT has also produced stunning concepts for the new Airbus and Boeing types.

Dallas- Texas headquartered Associated Air Center is one of the world’s heavyweights when it comes to large airliner VIP conversions. The company has done everything from moving a stairway on a Boeing 747-400 to installing the latest entertainment and office systems to outfitting a galley worthy of a 3-star chef. It claims- “There is virtually no maintenance- structural modification or avionic installation we can’t handle.” To date it has completed 21 Boeing Business Jets.

Smaller airliner variants are also creeping into China slowly- and it is likely that Embraer’s regional jet E190 derivative - the Lineage 1000 - will prove popular.

Companies like Raleigh- North Carolina’s Jetcraft Corporation are teaming with the likes of Project Phoenix (which sells versions of Bombardier’s airliner the CRJ 200) to offer converted airliners to clients. However- design definitions remain similar.

Also at the slightly smaller end of the market- Switzerland’s Comlux Aviation is also watching China for its completions work- as well as its charter services. Comlux has more than 30 years of experience in corporate aircraft refurbishment and its completion center dedicated to Bombardier aircraft. It has integrated in house facilities including a cabinet shop- finish shop- upholstery shop- entertainment system integration shop- sheet metal shop and avionics.

Eric Gillespie- director at Montreal- Canada-based Flying Colours Corp points to Chinese preferences for interior touches. Most of the company’s Bombardier Challenger 850s going to China will have a zone dedicated to socializing - for example a conference group or dual aft cabin divans - aimed at facilitating meetings or meals.

Flying Colours has already delivered two Bombardier Challenger 850s into China- which are now on the Chinese register- and it is working on a further three Challenger 850s. Like Airbus- Flying Colours may well establish a presence in China soon.

Perhaps Mr. Gillespie observations best sum up how the interior and completions centers are currently looking towards China: “We are seeing a huge demand for larger jets in China- which is a key market for us- along with the rest of Asia. We are looking to form a partnership in China- where perhaps we might do some interiors work.”

Read more about: Business Aviation in China | Jet Interiors

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