Considering a Cabin Upgrade? Three Valid Reasons

There is a variety of common reasons for upgrading the cabin of a private jet. Having considered some already, Chris Kjelgaard discusses three more, including the decision to refurbish instead of sell, outdated technology, and upcoming downtime.

Chris Kjelgaard  |  26th July 2022
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    Chris Kjelgaard
    Chris Kjelgaard

    Chris Kjelgaard has been an aviation journalist for more than 40 years and has written on multiple topics...

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    Large Cabin Private Jet Refurbishment by Duncan Aviation

    As highlighted in his article ‘Cabin Refurb: What Will Drive Your Next Upgrade’ there are several common reasons why business aircraft owners and operators decide to refurbish their cabins.

    Having looked at four common reasons in Part 1, the following paragraphs consider a further three decision-drivers.

    Refurbishing Instead of Selling the Aircraft

    Mission needs evolve over time, and sometimes owners choose to invest funds in refurbishing the cabins of their existing aircraft to provide a better functional match to the missions they’re operating, as opposed to buy one that matches that need.

    “We’re seeing a lot of owners/operators really trying to have discussions about maximizing and personalizing their interiors,” explains Meghan Welch, Director of Paint and Interior Sales for Elliott Aviation. “They want to do their refurbishments to personalize the cabins for proper function, fitting their uses and missions.”

    Duncan Aviation is seeing the same behavior among its customers. “We do see some refurbishing instead of buying at the inflated prices of today’s market,” says Suzanne Hawes, Completion Sales Representative for Duncan Aviation.

    Major MRO and cabin refurbishment providers such as Elliott Aviation and Duncan Aviation pay close attention to owners seeking to keep their aircraft in service, consulting closely with them on their personal preferences for their refurbished cabins’ look and functionality.

    For instance, says Welch, Elliott Aviation performs a lot of detail design work to make sure it can maximize galley space and capabilities, meeting each owner’s in-flight catering and beverage-service requirements.

    Seat designs and materials are approved with each owner, and entertainment options are discussed exhaustively to identify what each owner wants in terms of cabin Bluetooth wireless, audio and video capability. This is particularly what each owner desires in terms of passengers being able to use personal electronic devices in the cabin.

    Refurbishing to Replace CMS/Increase Wi-Fi Speed [and/or Bandwidth]

    Replacement of obsolete aircraft Cabin Management Systems (CMS) is another reason why owners — particularly of older business jets — choose to have cabin refurbishments performed, says Welch.

    Nowadays this is very often accompanied by installation or upgrading of Wi-Fi connectivity to the cabin, though Wi-Fi upgrading “depends on the subscriptions [aircraft owners have], and where they’re travelling”, says Hawes. “It’s variable.” 

    Increasingly, also, CMS replacement is accompanied by installation of dual USB charging ports (USB-A and/or USB-C) so that passengers can use their personal electronic devices onboard to view the Airmap display of the aircraft’s positional and velocity information, to watch films or listen to music, says Adrian Chene, Avionics Sales Representative at Duncan Aviation.

    (However, many owners are also specifying upgrades to their aircraft’s Hi-Fi cabin audio equipment during refurbs.)

    Hawes adds that in most cases owners aren’t choosing to have cabin bulkhead monitors removed, despite the growing prevalence of onboard PED usage. But many are choosing to have onboard VHS tape players and DVD players removed as passengers increasingly look to their PEDs to provide them with personalized entertainment.

    One area potentially of some design concern to Business Aircraft manufacturers is that outfitting an aircraft with dual USB charging ports for, say, eight to 15 passengers may alter the aircraft’s electrical power-generation requirements substantially, according to Chene.

    Today’s rapid-charging dual-USB ports can require a power input of 60 watts, and when as many as 15 passengers are travelling, this can mean that the aircraft’s total power requirement, purely for USB ports, can exceed 1,000 watts.

    Modern Business Aircraft are designed with high electrical power usage in mind, and their electricity generators are sized to generate large power loads. But older aircraft, fitted with USB ports at every seat, could find their electric power-generation capabilities overwhelmed if every passenger wanted to use their PED at the same time.

    In the future, as more and more USB chargers find their way into the armrests of business aircraft, some may need to have more powerful electrical generators or auxiliary power units installed, Chene suggests.

    Refurbishing to Coincide with Aircraft Downtime

    Some owners decide the time is right to refurbish the cabins of their aircraft — and sometimes for the aircraft also to undergo exterior repaint when they’re scheduled to be in the shop for a lengthy period of downtime for other maintenance or upgrade work, says Welch.

    In timing cabin refurbishments to coincide with what is unavoidable downtime anyway, such owners aim to minimize the total amount of downtime their aircraft must experience over the longer-term.

    Co-scheduling of cabin refurbishment is particularly common when owners decide to have the avionics of their aircraft replaced or upgraded, Welch explains.

    During downtime periods for avionics work, owners often feel that upgrading cabin connectivity and CMS functions, and performing other cabin refurbishment work is a natural fit with the cockpit modernization, and is best scheduled for the same time.

    Tips on Scheduling Refurbishments

    While scheduling a cabin refurbishment to accompany other planned aircraft downtime has the advantage that all the logistics involved in the refurb can be carefully worked out well beforehand, that is not necessarily the case when an owner wants to have the cabin refurbished immediately after completing the purchase of the aircraft.

    For various reasons to do with today’s overheated used-aircraft market, global trade tensions, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the plethora of supply-chain bottlenecks affecting the movement of many manufactured items throughout the world, lead times for aircraft parts and materials are “extremely challenging”, according to Hawes.

    “Pricing [of parts] has gone up, and supply is taking longer, all over the board,” says Jerrod Pickford, Interior Department Scheduler at Duncan Aviation. “It is affecting everything, from seat leather to carpeting to switch panels. And it’s not just the interior [of the aircraft which is being affected], it’s the airframe as well. You can’t get engine parts,” for instance.

    Hawes estimates that about one in every three used-aircraft buyers Duncan Aviation sees expects to have some kind of cabin-refurbishment work performed when they buy their aircraft. But the supply-chain difficulties Business Aviation is facing (as are many other industries) make scheduling the required downtime a tricky business.

    “When the aircraft is going through a pre-buy or a post-buy inspection, we do a specification session to get everything [which is to be involved in the cabin refurb] selected,” she says. “Then we schedule it out for those parts,” to obtain a planned date for the required downtime to begin.

    The timing of the downtime required for the cabin refurbishment “depends on the work-scope and the parts the owners select,” says Pickford. “For instance, lead time for a custom handmade carpet can be 18 weeks. It’s pretty critical to have everything on hand when the aircraft comes into the shop. That’s the biggest thing — educating the client on where we’re at,” in terms of the lead times on every part the client has selected.

    While this means clients won’t necessarily be able to have cabins refurbished to their liking immediately after they have bought their aircraft, “the good thing is that they’re flying the aircraft” in the intervening period before the scheduled cabin-refurb downtime begins, concludes Pickford.

    Did you miss Cabin Refurb: What Will Drive Your Next Upgrade? Find it on AvBuyer!

    More information from:
    Duncan Aviation:
    Elliott Aviation:

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