Plane Sense - Interiors Know-How

The urge to really personalize the cabin when you complete/refurbish your new or pre-owned business jet must very tempting. That’s all well and good- but presumably at some time in the future you’re going to be trying to sell it. So what are the pitfalls? Is bland and neutral the only way forward? More difficult still is reading the trends and predicting the materials and colors that will be popular in between two to five years’ time.

Mike Vines  |  01st August 2013
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Mike Vines
Mike Vines

From aerobatics to airliners Mike has photographed the lot. After 40 years behind the lens he has seen...

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Interiors Know-How
Maximizing your aircraft interior without compromising appeal and value

The urge to really personalize the cabin when you complete/refurbish your new or pre-owned business jet must very tempting. That’s all well and good- but presumably at some time in the future you’re going to be trying to sell it. So what are the pitfalls? Is bland and neutral the only way forward? More difficult still is reading the trends and predicting the materials and colors that will be popular in between two to five years’ time.

To get an insight into some of the pitfalls- and the positive action that owners and principals can take- World Aircraft Sales Magazine consulted three well-known completion management companies- teasing out their interior specialist tips on balancing the personalized cabin with something that will hold wider appeal when it comes to eventually re-selling the aircraft. We’ll report their input alphabetically.

In addition to aircraft sales- US-based Elliott Aviation specializes in business aircraft maintenance- accessories- avionics- cabin interior design- completions and refurbishments on mainly pre-owned aircraft up to Dassault Falcon/Bombardier Challenger size. Because of its maintenance expertise and the fact that it holds many Avionics and IFE STCs it’s also involved in pre-buy aircraft inspections.

Joe Daugherty- Paint and Interior Sales Director based at Moline- Quad City Airport- Illinois says the first question he asks owners is whether they plan to hold onto the aircraft for a few years or whether they bought it to sell on. “It also depends on how the aircraft will be used- the typical number of passengers and whether younger family members will use it much. The interior design and paint design choice gets very personal with the owner or principal- so we try to get a feel for that right off the bat.

“Sometimes it’s a materials durability problem- or the client wants a particularly favored material which has not been certificated through the fire block test or flame proofing. So we advise them on what’s applicable for their aircraft.” Another factor to take on board at the planning stage- he explained- is whether preferred fabrics and carpets might be discontinued making it more difficult to repair or replace them.

Daugherty says automotive design is strongly in vogue at the moment with owners wanting to echo the interior of - say - their favorite Mercedes. With the interior trim of the aircraft- woodwork is probably one of the most costly things to change.

“We’re doing more two-tone leathers- which in the past was rare. A lighter beige- a darker brown trim- or a change in the stitching color makes it stand out more and is similar to an automotive setting. For a while everyone was going with sculptured leathers and smooth window lines but now we’re starting to see a little more texture on board. There’s a fine line between getting something that’s durable and cleanable to making an almost sanitized finish.”

Trends over the past few years seem to be going with lighter overheads with darker woods giving a brighter and warmer feeling. Daugherty warns- however- that even though it’s a lot of fun personalizing your aircraft when it comes to resale the danger is that it might only attract very few buyers. He also emphasized- “Aircraft downtime plays a large part in customer’s decisions. How long can they be without a specific aircraft while it undergoes refurbishment- and at times this is more important than the price. We have to contend with this on almost every project.”

So what are the really good selling factors to have onboard an aircraft for resale? On a complete refurb one of the major factors is having LED lighting fitted- according to Daugherty- for its dependability- lifetime consistency and far fewer maintenance issues. “I see a lot more ‘aircraft for sale’ ads now underlining that they’re fitted with LED lighting. It’s always going to be a selling factor down the road.”

The second thing is communications and accessibility of the internet – everyone wants to be connected. “We do advise that the second part of the cost- even though equipment is already installed- is the cost of the subscription for using it. We give the best options whether they want world-wide or a US connectivity fit- while also warning that some of the older phone systems might not be supported now. Older systems are being phased-out so we always try to make sure they have an up-to-date phone system that is going to be maintained- and that the customer has accessibility to service providers.

“We get requests from people who have more than one aircraft and they’ve experienced a level of connectivity in their larger aircraft so now want it fitted in their smaller one.” (Phone and interconnectivity fitted by Elliott Aviation ranges from King Airs through Citations- Learjets- Hawker 800XP and 900XP- to Challengers and Falcon 900s.) Modern connectivity is a factor when an aircraft may be put out to charter - as is having iPad- iPod and iPhone or Android compatibility on-board.

“There is a lot more ‘hot stuff’ coming from Honeywell and Rockwell Collins which can control the cabin entertainment system from iPads- iPhones and such-” explained Daugherty. “People want to bring their own media on-board and use it. We put in auxiliary ports so that they can do that. Some want to operate power point presentations from flash drives which is now possible through a USB link. Others have their family vacation pictures on flash drives so they can hook them into the cabin entertainment system.”

HD TV is becoming more common- but- warns Daugherty- to get true HD the cabin needs to be re-wired and source equipment fitted. HD is becoming more of an expectation now so it’s probably worth getting the HD wiring done during a refurb as it is becoming a good re-sale factor. Most of Elliott’s customers are US- or South America-based. “We do get some interest from the European market because of some of our niche specialties and packages- and we are starting to see more Russian market activity whether they be Bermuda-registered or from further afield. I would say that being able to tell which region of the world an aircraft comes from by walking through it gets more difficult- however. Interiors are now more determined by the aircraft’s use- whether it be private or corporate.”

Final advice from Daugherty not to invest more money in an aircraft than its top-end resale value. The advice might sound obvious- but Daugherty says- “Sometimes we’ll give customers a value proposition and with aircraft sales being part of Elliott Aviation- access to that type of information is available to our customers to make sure that they’re not over- or under-doing it.”

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Unlike Elliott Aviation which offers design-to-completion at its own facility- there are other companies out there that specialize in watching over the whole completions management process through a third party completions specialist for the owner or principal of the aircraft. Roman Aerne is Head of Completions for Zurich-based ExecuJet with most of his team UK-based.

Aerne says that in his experience having the most up-to-date entertainment systems on-board is one of the most important re-sale factors. “In addition- working with unique or big-name designers- such as BMW- Porsche and Hermès- also makes the aircraft attractive to prospective buyers.”

When asked if it is difficult to furnish an aircraft that has a global re-sale appeal- he offered- “Finding designs that appeal to more than one individual is already a challenge- so expanding that brief to more than one geographical region makes it even more difficult. For example- in the Middle East- customers prefer more extravagant designs with lots of textiles and patterns- whereas in the US clients prefer much bigger- more luxurious seats and furnishings. In Europe- meanwhile- customers go for a more minimalistic style.”

ExecuJet is busy with its completions management and consulting services. “Over the last five years we have had steady business in completions and refurbishment. It is not the main focus of ExecuJet’s service offering- but we do have a good reputation in the industry and boast a high customer retention rate-” Aerne explained.

In the last 12 months Aerne’s department- which mainly manages new aircraft projects- has supervised two Falcon 7X aircraft and a Falcon 2000 completion. Currently it is working on refurbishing a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ). “Completions management is a very time-consuming process and most projects run over a six-month period-” he said. “Europe remains our busiest region. Russia is another major focus for us- and we see China becoming a key market for completions over the next one to two years.”

Aerne says that his side of the company handles around 80% new aircraft and 20% pre-owned projects. “We find customers are more willing to invest in new aircraft than refurbishing pre-owned models.” The largest aircraft completion so far has been a Global Express but the BBJ currently being worked on is the company’s largest refurbishment project to date.

“Completions management is still a rather unknown service within the industry-” Aerne points out. “There are many companies offering it- but not many people understand the benefits of hiring a company like ours. “When ExecuJet works on a project it is impartial and offers a balanced service to the client. The client is our only priority – that is how we get the best results which lead to a lot of repeat business. For example- we have just completed a factory-new Falcon 7X and the customer has already hired us again to complete a new Falcon 2000 he has bought.”

More information:

Freestream Aircraft Services Ltd. offers brokerage- acquisition- sales- design and project management services- but also has its own inhouse cabin design team under Sarah Mespelt- VP- Design- Freestream Aircraft Services Ltd. Mespelt’s design center is located in Teterboro Airport while Freestream also has offices in London- UK; Teterboro; Beijing; and Bermuda. “We have a team for each project - it is never just one person-” Mespelt emphasizes.

She says that Freestream never makes resale its primary focus- even though part of its business is with pre-owned aircraft. “If you have a timeless design you are not going to have a re-sale issue-” she explains. “On a new or refurbished aircraft we seek to install the most up-to-date systems that will be compatible with upgrades that might come in over the next two to five years.”

She admits that it is difficult to have access to items ahead of the aircraft’s time to certification- but tries to install systems that will be compatible with upcoming items in the news.

“This is so that upgrading is an easy option when these new items are available.” Mespelt says that a timeless seat style- classic veneers and an upgraded cabin management system are musts for making re-sale easier- and asked if it is difficult to furnish an aircraft that has global re-sale appeal she adds- “We would consider our designs global as we present options to the client with design principles that are of global appeal. We do not try to regionalize our designs as we think a truly timeless design can- and should appeal to all regions.”

Freestream draws its clients from the US- Asia and Europe/ Russia at the moment and is extremely busy. Over the next year Freestream will complete four G650s and three BBJs. “We of course have projects following that-” Mespelt says.

A very recent new completion project of a BBJ2 saw Marc Newson commissioned as the designer. “It’s the only aircraft in existence with this design-” Mespelt revealed. This aircraft was completed by Lufthansa Technik but Mespelt says Freestream uses various completion centers around the world.

More information:


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