Jet Cabin Refurbishment: How to Narrow the Choices

The sheer range of textures, shades and prices of materials available for an aircraft cabin refurbishment are dizzying. Gerrard Cowan asks the experts how to avoid being overwhelmed by the choices and narrow focus on the best options for you…

Gerrard Cowan  |  19th June 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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    How to narrow the choices for your jet cabin refurbishment

    Cabin refurbishments present a huge array of choices for business jet owners, ranging from colors, textures and prices to preferences for sustainable and even vegan solutions. If the time is coming for you to upgrade the interior of your airplane, how can you best narrow down the choices and avoid becoming overwhelmed?

    Since Emily Krawczak, Lead Designer at Duncan Aviation’s Battle Creek, Michigan facility joined the company in 2017, the choices available to owners and operators looking to refurbish their aircrafts’ interiors have multiplied.

    For example, today Duncan Aviation provides new hydrographic finish options along with new perforation, stitching and embroidery capabilities. To prevent clients from becoming lost among the potential options, the company gathers as much information from them as possible – “about their preferences and sometimes even more importantly, their dislikes,” Krawczak says.

    This includes gathering a client’s thoughts on the aesthetics they prefer and soliciting their opinions on Duncan Aviation’s project galleries, helping the company to gauge their preferences. “Sometimes just having those starting points is a great help enabling us to determine a direction and the ultimate feeling they wish to achieve with the interior.”

    The company works with both individuals and teams, she says, but it is always important to determine who the final decision-maker is. “In one recent project, I worked with a husband and wife,” Krawczak illustrates. “One liked black and the other preferred white. We came up with a compromise that included black seats and carpet complemented by white sidewalls and shell. It turned out beautifully.”

    “In my view, the most important task of the aircraft owner is to be able to articulate what they are seeking,” says Thomas Chatfield, CEO of Camber Aviation Management.

    “The focus here should be on the purpose of the aircraft, the journeys that will be taken, the number of passengers and the expectations in terms of on-board service, comfort entertainment, etc. At this stage it is not necessary to have all the answers – only to clearly state what the expectations are.”

    What are the Top Cabin Refurbishment Priorities?

    Markus Schröcker, Group Director for Customer Relations and Sales in F/LIST’s Air Aftermarket business unit agrees that the sheer number of options available for cabin refurbishment can be a challenge for the decision-making process.

    This is particularly the case in areas with many choices, “or where the choices have a significant impact on the overall aesthetics, functionality or cost of the cabin refurbishment,” he notes. “In my experience, seats and carpets are the perfect example of this.”

    Schröcker outlined several key tips to help owners stay focused during the cabin renovation process, starting with setting clear goals and objectives for the refurbishment. “What are the key priorities? Is it improving aesthetics, improving functionality, incorporating sustainability features, or managing costs?

    “Having a clear vision will help owners and operators focus their choices and decision-making process accordingly,” he suggests.

    Owners and operators should then seek expert help to streamline the process, narrow the choices and visualize their ideas. And they should prioritize, and narrow the choices based on their defined goals.

    Next, samples of the selected materials, colors and textures should be requested to help you visualize how they will work together in the cabin of your jet. “Although visualization has come a long way in recent years, it is still important to have a physical mood board,” Schröcker stresses.

    And finally, Schröcker highlights the importance of taking the necessary time to make your decisions. “Avoid rushing into decisions and take the time needed to carefully evaluate options,” he advises. “Consider the pros and cons, weigh up the implications, and make decisions based on a thorough evaluation rather than impulse.”

    How to Achieve Your Cabin Refurb Dream on a Budget

    Krawczak adds that it is helpful to have as much information up-front as possible, including any research the customer has done and their priorities in areas like material pricing. “We can meet expectations regarding unique design within a limited budget.

    “Knowing that ahead of time enables us to work with certain vendors and materials that allow the desired look within budgetary confinements. The samples and options provided will vary depending on budget requirements,” she says.

    “If a client has done at least some research, it gives us a great starting point. If they show us, for example, design elements that they prefer in commercial or residential spaces, the interiors of cars or yachts, or even give us a few descriptive words, we can choose aviation-approved materials that fit their needs,” she adds.

    “With a vision of what the owner or operator wants it to feel like when they walk in their aircraft, we can pull examples that get the conversation moving forward to arrive at the exact material combination needed to provide the requested reaction.”

    Who’s Your Best Cabin Refurbishment Partner?

    Chatfield emphasises the importance of finding the right partner for your project. “This partner acts in the client’s best interests, taking away what could be perceived as an overwhelming amount of information,” he says.

    “Long story short, don’t embark on a refurbishment journey on your own – team-up with an industry expert and get the best possible outcome without getting stressed.”

    In Chatfield’s experience, a refurbishment process typically begins with an internet search that “quickly leads to images, articles, sponsored ads and often into a rabbit warren of possibilities.

    “The options appear unlimited and in many cases it is unclear if the ideas are practical or can even be certified for your aircraft.” Instead, he says, it is best to find a recommended expert with whom to pursue the process.

    An expert ‘wingman’ can help take expectations and develop solutions. “For example, in-flight entertainment is quickly moving away from large monitors and moving towards streaming solutions,” Chatfield illustrates.

    “A client whose aircraft currently has monitors and no streaming capability needs to be made aware not only of the possibilities, but the advantages and disadvantages of the latest offerings, as well as the ability to upgrade in the future at a reasonable cost.”

    Indeed, Meghan Welch, Director of Paint and Interior Sales at Elliott Aviation, says her company aims to “do the homework” for its customers, including talking to vendors to establish the best options and designs. Her team can then outline veral schemes based on the criteria the individual customer has outlined.

    “It could be intimidating – you may think ‘I don’t even know where to start’,” she says. “But we really enjoy the personalization we can get when getting to know the client’s needs and wants in-flight. We really enjoy the before and after.

    “Your private jet cabin refurbishment should be a very positive and enjoyable process,” she concludes. 

    More information from:
    Camber Aviation Management:
    Duncan Aviation:
    Elliott Aviation:

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