What are the common mistakes to avoid
If you’re contemplating a major interior or exterior refurbishment project any time soon, following are some common mistakes to avoid, as presented by JSSI’s Technical Advisor, Chad Lombardo…
Start any refurbishment planning process with a few key questions. Before deciding on what interior changes are needed, identify how the aircraft will be used, and for what purposes. Perhaps that sounds l odd, but those questions have major implications for your choice of refurbishment.
Do you anticipate using the aircraft strictly for the transportation of key company management and principals in business-related Part 91 flights, or will the aircraft be used partly for Part 135 charter flights (in which utilization is typically higher, and the airplane gets treated more like a rental car than a multi-million dollar asset)?
Next, does the aircraft need a full or partial refurbishment? There are many aesthetically pleasing options, such as re-covering seats or installing LED lighting, that are ‘plug-and-play’-type installations and often easy and cost-effective to complete.
Depending on the aircraft and its maintenance status, a partial refurbishment may be the best solution for you.
Making a must-have list of what needs to be done now, versus addressing your entire wish-list, can be helpful. If you’re purchasing a used aircraft, and all the scheduled maintenance is up-to-date, you should consider a partial refurbishment.
You can replace or fix your must-have items now and wait until the next major inspection is due to have the entire interior, paint and cockpit upgraded at the same time.
Clarifying the answers to the above two questions will also help you avoid some of the following common mistakes associated with an aircraft refurbishment…
Too Much Customization
Let’s imagine your corporate aircraft needs a full refurbishment. Your principal wants to personalize the aircraft with a newly designed interior and fresh paintwork. This is a common situation and one you need to consider carefully.
The buyer of one business jet I worked with chose to bring in their own interior designer who had never created an aircraft interior before. The buyers had a long and close relationship with this talented designer who was very familiar with the owners’ taste, personality and preferences.
The biggest mistake the buyer and designer made was to choose a highly customized interior consisting of non-standard materials, special leather seats in an obscure color, and an exclusive textured carpet.
Firstly, these materials were not burn certified for used on an aircraft, and the process to secure these certifications was challenging, costly and time consuming. Additionally, problems of obtaining replacement materials to match the originals presented a persistent problem for the owner.
Other unexpected issues arose too. Costly damage was incurred after placing a standard adhesive maintenance identification tag on a seat made of non-standard custom leather.
Ultimately, the owners got the customized interior they wanted but it came at a price that continued to bite for years afterwards.
High levels of customization in a cabin refurbishment can also impact the aircraft’s resale proposition. What appeals to you personally won’t necessarily appeal to the wider market of prospective aircraft owners.
Finally, one aircraft with a customized interior included a beautiful matt-finish credenza with a natural wood top. While it looked superb when newly refurbished, by the time the owner wanted to sell the aircraft the surface had cracked and was covered with scratches. What should have typically cost $600 to touch-up prior to resale, equated to $3,000 for a custom repair.
When it comes to aircraft paint, too much customization can get in the way at the time of resale. There are some amazing paint options available today, including metallic or mica finishes that truly look stunning, but they are also very difficult to touch-up. It’s inevitable that at some point you will need to have the paint repaired, especially when you are ready to sell.
Other custom paint designs include company-specific themes, such as placing the company logo on the tail.
This customization can be great for the current owner but cost $30k–$40k to remove before a prospective buyer can take delivery.
Time kills deals, especially when selling an aircraft. Imagine there are two similar Gulfstream G450s for sale at similar prices. If one of the aircraft needs the logo removed from the tail, the metallic paint retouched, and a custom wood cabinet surface repaired, which of the two options will appeal the most to the impatient buyer?
Even if buyers are willing to wait to have the necessary alterations made, those cosmetics will probably be at your expense.
Customization Tip: Buy Extra Materials
Having seen many extreme designs and customized interiors end up costing far more than expected over the lifetime of the interior, always ensure that you have extra material, such as that custom shaded leather for the seats or inserts for the one-of-a-kind carpet.
By doing so, when a seat gets ripped or a spillage stains the carpet, the interior can be repaired with the same, certified, customized materials. Further, you’ll avoid the long lead-times for a custom re-order that doesn’t fully match the original color.
Part 135 Charter Interior
As mentioned above, Part 135 charter aircraft interiors tend to take more ‘abuse’. If you plan to charter your aircraft when it’s not in company use, choose fabrics that are easy to clean and replace to keep the refurbishment and repair costs down.
Cabinets and surfaces that are easy to touch up, and cabin layouts that are simple but inviting, work well for charter customers. Installing a custom luxury carpet in a charter aircraft makes little sense, since carpets used aboard Part 135 aircraft are typically replaced every two years.
Know Your Warranties
Another potential mistake that is often overlooked is the warranty for paint and interior refurbishments. Many aircraft buyers fail to ask about existing warranties covering the interiors or paint when they purchase a used aircraft. There should always be an ongoing tracking and inspecting process in place by your maintenance team regarding warranties.
If you, as a new owner, jump straight into replacing seats, redoing a cracked headliner or repainting the exterior, you could be leaving money on the table if a warranty is still in effect from the previous owner.
Moreover, there are airframe maintenance programs that can be transferred with the aircraft purchase and may cover certain refurbishment expenses.
Choosing the right refurbishment plan for your aircraft can be both challenging and exciting. To enjoy a beautiful interior and prevent costly mistakes down the road, take a moment now to plan for the future.