Cabin Refurbs: Meeting Demand with New Materials

How are cabin completion and refurbishment companies pushing the boundaries of comfort and functionality in business jets today? Gerrard Cowan asks a selection of industry experts what’s on trend and in development...

Gerrard Cowan  |  24th March 2023
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    Gerrard Cowan
    Gerrard Cowan

    Gerrard Cowan is a freelance journalist who focuses on aerospace and finance. In addition to his regular...

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    Luxurious VVIP aircraft interior concept from Greenpoint Tech


    Materials are a key focus for cabin design and retrofit projects, which should come as little surprise given their major impact on everything from cabin comfort and appearance to demands around weight and sustainability.

    So, how are the materials used in cabin refurbishments and completions evolving today? What are the key opportunities and challenges for specialists as they seek to stretch the upper limits of the aircraft refurbishment world?

    F/LIST is an Austria-based design specialist that produces handcrafted interiors for aircraft, yachts and luxury residences. Mélanie Prince, the company’s Head of Innovation highlights that business jet customers have a wide range of priorities, “from having the most unique and lavish interior to having the most robust workhorse”.

    Among the priorities gaining traction is sustainability, she says, with more and more inquiries being made for sustainable products. “In the last few years the industry has mainly focused on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), but we now see an increased priority for sustainable interiors too.”

    This has been a key principle behind the company’s new ‘F/LIST SHAPESHIFTER’ concept, which aims to transform the design and functionality of cabins while making them more sustainable. F/LIST is currently researching sustainable next-generation materials that are light while offering high performance, Prince says.

    “It’s true the cabin interior has a relatively minor impact on sustainability compared to overall aircraft weight, aerodynamics, and engine performance, but we want to ensure the materials we use reinforce the message of sustainability,” she explains.

    “Placing new materials in front of the owner, making sure they understand the message, is important and maybe it will affect customers’ subsequent choices.”

    According to Prince, F/LIST introduced the sector’s first portfolio of bio-based sustainable materials at NBAA-BACE last year. The aim was to help make the vision of a sustainable cabin into a reality, beyond SAF and carbon offsetting programs. There are three new products under the new portfolio:

    • F/LIST AENIGMA is a decorative material fusing transitional jewellery techniques and aerospace technology with chemistry, combining products like F/LIST stone by-products and ground mother of pearl.
    • F/LIST WHISPER Leather is a new kind of flexible textile produced from plant-based raw materials.
    • F/LIST LINFINIUM is a linseed-based compound available in various textures with applications from immovable countertops to flexible flooring.

    Copyright F/LIST

     

    “A lot of prototyping, testing, and iterating is necessary to optimize the products to the level of performance our products are known for. Thankfully we have extensive testing facilities which allow us to perform most of the tasks internally,” she adds.

    Overcoming Certification Hurdles

    According to Jeannine Kray, a Colours, Materials, and Finish (CMF) designer at Greenpoint Technologies, the main challenge of incorporating new materials on VVIP aircraft is meeting certification requirements while offering a boutique, high-quality look and feel.

    “Greenpoint Design collaborates directly with material manufacturers to co-develop materials that meet all certification requirements, such as flammability,” she says.

    The company has recently seen an increasing move of materials prominent in the electric vehicle industry crossing over into aviation. “It’s always interesting to learn how authentic materials are engineered to meet the current needs of aviation,” she says. “For example, learning how sustainable leathers are developed to be increasingly lightweight.”

    Greenpoint aims to take a materials-driven design approach engaging with vendors to collaborate during a material’s development and manufacturing lifecycle. Key priorities include quality, durability and performance, Kray reveals. “Our clients require beautiful, high-quality materials that will be sustained over the life cycle expectancy of their aircraft, all while maintaining a VVIP aesthetic.”

    Kray echoes Prince’s observation that sustainability is becoming paramount, and over the years the company has worked with suppliers to develop and offer sustainable materials for their luxurious VIP business jet interiors.

    “For a material to be sustainable, it must perform and be evaluated through a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ lens,” Kray explains. “Greenpoint Design must thoroughly understand the material manufacturing process from start to finish and evaluate the balance of durability and longevity.”

    Materials continually evolve to follow the aesthetic trends and interests of the client base, says Kray. As part of the growing importance of sustainability, new materials have been introduced, she notes, such as true leathers that are developed to be more lightweight with a low environmental impact.

    “We also expect to see materials from the VIP yacht and automotive industries make their way into aviation,” she projects.

    High-Quality and High-Function are Key

    Lori Diep, CEO and Co-owner of Euler Products Inc., is Co-creator of the Diep Sleep System, a handcrafted aircraft bedding system that’s comfortable, easy to set up, and stores compactly in small spaces, according to the company. To further improve the in-cabin experience, the company offers other luxury accessories, including custom-fit bed linens, blankets, table linens, leather products and more.

    According to Diep, Sleep System clients choose between soft, medium and firm mattress comfort levels, and from a selection of fine leathers and wood veneers to match the aircraft’s interior. “When designing this product, it was important to us to build it using some of the highest-quality, most attractive materials that are also durable and functional,” she shares. 

    “Some clients are spending upwards of $75m on their aircraft, so they really want a beautiful piece of furniture that’s also high-functioning,” she adds.

    What’s Important to the Aircraft Owner?

    Through its ‘Streamline Method’, Camber Aviation Management offers custom and one-of-a-kind private jet designs, which includes a cabin design services. CEO Thomas Chatfield says discussions on materials take place right from the beginning, both for work on new aircraft, and for refurbishment projects.

    “What are their expectations in terms of what is the right aircraft for them, and what do they want to do? Do they want a new aircraft and do they have the patience and the money to do that? Or do they want to get a pre-owned aircraft that's going to be customized for them?”

    Even before Camber discusses the project with a designer, it will talk to the customer about what’s important to them. Do they want a classic wood veneer finish or a more modern, sleek design? The company can then layer in three important elements, Chatfield says.

    First, it considers sustainability. “Is that very important to the person? Could it limit some of the veneers, fabrics and finishes that you want to use, or the weights onboard the aircraft?”

    The second factor is aircraft performance, with heavier weights impacting speed and range.

    Finally, is the aircraft going to be used privately, or is it going to be chartered, either on a part-time or full-time basis? “If you want to offset some of the costs with charter, the chances are you’re not going to want to use materials that could easily be damaged by someone who isn’t as careful as you are,” Chatfield warns.

    He points to the evolution of architectural films or foils, which can be applied to a surface and look like veneers but are generally lighter, take less time and energy to install, and can be repaired quickly. This is a viable option to change the colour effect of wood, for example, or to provide a contemporary, high-gloss finish or otherwise change the surface, even including adding an image or another design.

    “Those are things that have come along in the last four or five years or so that really allow you to start doing some different things on the interior,” concludes Chatfield.

    More information from:

    Camber Aviation Management: https://camberaviationmanagement.com
    Euler Products: www.eulerx.com
    F/LIST: https://f-list.at
    Greenpoint Technologies: https://greenpoint.com

    Read similar articles in AvBuyer's MRO Special Industry Guides


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