A house is not a home until it’s finished- furnished and ready for living. When a buyer gets to ‘spec’ a new house- the opportunity exists to put a wholly personal imprint on the finished product. It’s a different experience than opting for a built-to-a-standard structure in which the builder chooses the cabinets- the wall finishes- carpets- lights and fixtures. What you see is what you buy. Much of the same applies to the ...
Completion centers feel little economic distress.
A house is not a home until it’s finished- furnished and ready for living. When a buyer gets to ‘spec’ a new house- the opportunity exists to put a wholly personal imprint on the finished product. It’s a different experience than opting for a built-to-a-standard structure in which the builder chooses the cabinets- the wall finishes- carpets- lights and fixtures. What you see is what you buy.
Much of the same applies to the world of business aviation. At some levels- manufacturers offer either a selection of standard exteriors and interiors- or a range of standardized choices from which the buyer picks cafeteria style. The planemaker then delivers to the customer a product finished to those specifications in its own facilities.
At another- generally higher level the manufacturer builds a flyable machine but leaves it ‘green’ for finishing decisions made wholly to the buyer. Under this method- the buyer can- within the scope of available and capable shops- decide on everything from the colors and design of the paint- and all the choices regarding the interior- including seating layouts- placement of tables and clubseating areas- fabrics- leathers- woods- carpets and lights- even in-flight entertainment and office equipment – and where those systems are installed.
At this level- someone has to build the cabinets- tables and storage closets from scratch – and to aviation materials and safety regulations. It’s a complicated- involved- lengthy and expensive proposition. Some planemakers offer their own in-house completion services to customers; some OEMs work with a set of approved shops from among the numerous firms which provide completion services as third-party players. Regardless- the ultimate work of the completion shop is to translate into reality the desires of the owner.
In the past 10 years- annual deliveries of new business jets effectively doubled- with an even-larger percentage of growth concentrated in jets from the medium and larger classes. For the better part of the last decade- completion centers have been increasingly busy performing just such translations for a growing list of clients.
However- capacity has barely kept pace with this growth – meaning a likelihood that an anecdotally expected drop in OEM deliveries over the next two to three years shouldn’t cut too deeply into the backlog of completion centers. As it stands- those shops should continue to stay busy for some time to come. Indeed- when a completion job can range up to 15 months or more- changes don’t impact quickly.
THE SHORT-TERM LONG VIEW
Opinions still vary about whether the sudden manifestation of a long-brewing economic malaise will be a long-term good thing or bad thing for completion centers. On one hand- there’s the pending slowdown in production that portents a coming drop on aircraft deliveries – many of which would head to completion centers before going to work for their owners.
On the other hand- there’s the realization that a slowing in new airplane deliveries means that many older planes will stay longer with their present owners – owners who may see value in continuing that ownership- and see upgrading the interior as a smarter alternative to buying a new jet.
Looking at both possibilities- the work of completion centers hardly qualifies as an impulse purchase by clients of these centers. And given that completion center capacity was being outstripped by the delivery pace of planemakers- a little bit of a slowdown wouldn’t be a terrible thing.
As Peter Edwards told World Aircraft Sales Magazine during the National Business Aviation Association meeting last October- bookings for Jet Aviation’s completion services stretch out years into the future. And the same word came from some of the other completion shops contacted in recent weeks.
“Work we’re doing now was contracted two and three years ago-” remarked one completion area manager of a major planemaker. The manager declined to speak for attribution because of his company policies- however. “We’ve booked projects out three and four years ahead. To keep up- our engineers and designers are creating the designs and documents for aircraft that won’t come in for at least another year and- in parallel- workers are producing interior components for aircraft that won’t arrive for many more months.
“To keep all this rolling- we have marketing and design people working to sign contracts for work four and five years out. It’s an ongoing and never-ending process-” he continued. “There’s a certain sense of security that comes from that.”
As an example of how far ahead this business can work- Jet Aviation announced new Letters of Intent around the time of the NBAA convention in October 2008 - but the company expects to see those aircraft in 2014 and 2015. However- as a note of caution that so much is unknown- and some worry that advanced bookings have slowed somewhat- “We could still see things slow… but we’re not seeing much yet-” said Jet Aviation’s Edwards. “We’re busier than ever.”
And as a designer for an interior-components shop noted- “Unless the client has actually cancelled the airplane- it’s going to have to go somewhere- sometime- before it goes into service.”
Given recent concerns about demands for completion work exceeding available capacity- insiders note that the bubble could shrink a little- without causing their businesses to shrink as well.
“It wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to see things slow to a sane pace-” said one completion shop manager. “Nobody buys a business aircraft to use it green- and that means eventually we will see them all in a completion shop somewhere.”
Long before a business jet starts down the line of the manufacturer- the customer and the completions people of choice sit down together to start the complex process of defining the buyer’s fondest desires for the main cabin.
If it’s a bizliner- the option of creating separated suites and offices is there; if the jet’s a wide-body- those options go even further to suites- staterooms and subdivided main-cabin sections - and if it’s a doubledecker- like a 747 or A380- we barely need to note the options grow vertically as well as linearly.
The type and nature of furniture must be defined- along with the desired materials to be used – fabrics- leathers- wood- metal trims and inlays. Lighting requirements go along with defining the seating (and sleeping) arrangements- right up there with deciding where- and which type of power outlets and communications hook-ups the owner-to-be wants or needs.
The finish of the cabin overhead and sidewalls should be decided in concert with furnishings decisions. And we can’t neglect the nourishment needs of those who will travel in the finished cabin. So the size- placement and nature of the galley – or galleys- in some cases – is another area of consideration. Will real cooking be done – or merely reheating? Is an oven necessary- or a microwave- or merely a warming cabinet?
Drink service considerations include hot drinks – allowing for a regular cup of coffee- or something more exotic like Espresso and Cappuccino – and cold drinks. Will a fridge be required- or just an ice-powered chiller? How about water capacity? Both potable and non-potable.
Then there are the post-meal chores - trash considerations- and- of course- the galley must be serviced while on the ground- so access is a huge consideration.
What about the stuff of work or play? Flying office equipment can include broadband wireless with satellite communications and wide-area aerial Web surfing for work. Fax and printers may be needed – and if so- they need a place to reside- secure against the bumps and bruises that can come with a moving office.
Telephones- of course- are a must in a productive aerial working environment - but of what type and where? Wireless handsets can add flexibility. Deciding on the in-flight office- communications and entertainment system options can take an entirely different specialization area of their own.
THE GLOBAL MACHINE
It’s no wonder that aircraft manufacturing – including the completion businesses – is a global concern. As the world’s economy continues to interconnect – and sometimes suffer for the interconnectedness – the need for businesses to move their people around the globe will remain.
And with that- we’ll see more need for fitting the aerial tool of commerce. That means completion work will continue to benefit for years to come- and with it the value and utility of the private aircraft as a tool for business.
AIRCRAFT COMPLETION & REFURBISHMENT CENTERS
The following listing is a representative selection of companies who can carry out- or manage- a range of completion and refurbishment projects on business configured aircraft.
AERO TOY STORE
AERO TOY STORE- CANADA
AIRBUS CORPORATE JET CENTER
ALAN MANN GROUP
ASSOCIATED AIR CENTER
North Carolina- U.SA.
BURNET AIRCRAFT INTERIORS
DASSAULT AIRCRAFT SERVICES
DASSAULT FALCON JET
EADS SOGERMA SERVICES
South Carolina- U.S.A.
GORE DESIGN COMPLETIONS
HILLAERO MODIFICATION CENTER
INNOTECH - EXECAIRE GROUP
Switzerland: Basel- Geneva- Zurich. UK: London Biggin Hill. Germany: Dusseldorf. Singapore.
JET WORKS AIR CENTER
JIM MILLER AIRCRAFT PAINTING
LUFTHANSA BOMBARDIER AVIATION SERVICES
MONTREAL JET CENTER
PATS AIRCRAFT COMPLETIONS
PENTA AVIATION SERVICES
British Columbia- Canada
ROSE AIRCRAFT SERVICE
SAVANNAH AIR CENTER
SOUTHSTAR AIRCRAFT INTERIORS
WEST STAR AVIATION