Every aircraft owner eventually needs to consider an aircraft cabin refurbishment. It’s an involved, often highly-personalized process - but what are the governing principles for a successful outcome and how can you really maximize the downtime? LBAS’ Marek Rinke & OHS Aviation Services’ Dennis Neumann offer perspectives…
There are so many options available to the owner of a business aircraft seeking a cabin refurbishment. With hundreds – if not thousands – of colors, textures, layouts and products to choose from there are literally millions of possible permutations for the look and feel of a newly-refurbished cabin. Each and every cabin refurbishment project is essentially bespoke.
From all of the options available, an aircraft owner could be forgiven for believing that literally anything is possible as they seek an MRO center that can bring their dreams into reality. Despite the plethora of choice, however, an owner must be prepared to work with the facility they select to understand the finer details of the project, and realize that compromise may be necessary.
They should also work closely with the facility regarding any other maintenance work they will need if they are to make the best use of the downtime.
Perhaps an upgrade to the cabin avionics is desired, requiring re-routing of wires or installation of routers (or other components) that can only be accessed with the interior removed?
Without such planning, owners will not only face further, disruptive downtime for their business jets as those projects are undertaken separately, but they risk damaging their new interior when parts of it are removed to gain access as required for the additional modification.
As unique as each cabin refurbishment project is and as varied as maintenance requirements can be, the same basic question remains primary as you funnel them into a single project: what needs to be achieved?
When that answer is defined the chosen MRO center can begin to advise, helping manage the expectations of its client regarding the best materials and solutions for the budget and need, and how to implement the process to produce the best results.
Once the aircraft owner has selected the facility that will manage the project, the chosen shop should seek to undertake a detailed cabin inspection to establish more about the status of the aircraft. The facility will want to understand the aircraft’s current lay-out and its look and feel (i.e., what materials are installed, and what are the possibilities regarding the use of new materials).
To assess what type of refurbishment will be possible, the service provider needs to consider weight factors, seat design and general cabin structure, all of which could impact the types and quantities of materials used in the project going forwards.
Indeed, having established all of the possibilities and challenges relating to the cabin and matched these against the budget, available downtime and various other wishes of the aircraft owner, the shop can propose a realistic selection of products, materials for wall coverings (sidewalls and headliner), PSU, leather, wood veneer, carpets, stones, seatbelts, fabrics and accessories (china, crystal, tableware, pillows, etc.).
OHS Aviation Services, for example, helps its clients with their decision-making by offering an online cabin configurator tool, giving a visual first impression of different material combinations available to them. Customer renderings of the materials that will be used are provided so that the aircraft owner knows exactly what his or her aircraft interior will look like., Thus OHS provides realistic expectations of the end-result from the outset of the project.
Maintenance: More than Meets the Eye…
There is often more to planning the cabin refurbishment than the visible, tactile elements.. Fabrics, colors and textures may be a central focus of a finished cabin, but that is no reason to neglect electronics that enhance the flying experience of the cabin occupants.
Increasingly, passengers expect to be able to use their Personal Electronic Devices (iPhones/laptops, etc.) to control the cabin environment, lighting, in-flight entertainment and email/internet/telephone.
The time to remedy that non-functioning light in the cabin closet is during refurbishment, as access to the wiring behind the paneling becomes accessible.
If your aircraft doesn’t deliver on passenger expectations or is non-functioning in some way, this occasion is the best opportunity to incorporate it into the project planning process.
Often modifications to in-flight entertainment systems (for example Satcom, wireless routers and power supply) are combined with cabin seating and furnishings, or galley remodeling. Thus the service facility you choose will need to be able to demonstrate it can offer services for a complete range of design changes and repairs for aerodynamics, avionics, electronics, flight, structural and interior work.
The service facility will also need access to engineering information from the OEM and have approvals for minor and major changes in accordance with the relevant aviation authority. Be sure to check ahead of time.
Time & Compromise
Some owners may be surprised to find their cabin options reduced significantly once the project moves forward, and this situation can be dictated by a number of factors. The amount of downtime available to undertake the project will be central to an owner maximizing their options.
For example, how will the delivery times required for certain materials fall into the available timeframe? Is there a requirement to have a product or some re-wiring certified for safety purposes?
A refurbishment/maintenance project organized less than three months before the required completion date will be significantly limited in terms of options available since on-stock materials tend to be rare and certification times can be lengthy. The more costly, customized selections require additional time for burn tests and certificates to be completed and issued so that they can be legally installed in the aircraft.
For an aircraft owner to maximize the available options, the top MROs recommend allowing several months before the refurbishment/maintenance project needs to be completed.
To help plan well ahead of time, aircraft owners should specify when a major maintenance event is next due for the aircraft and correlate accordingly.
As an example, aircraft owners commonly arrange complete cabin refurbishments to coincide with a significant event such as a 96-month inspection where the downtime offers more time for the all-important refurb project without the need to incur additional downtime on a separate occasion.
In summary, the refurbishment and/or maintenance of the aircraft cabin is a very significant event for the owner and should be handled by experienced specialists knowledgeable in the aircraft type and model.
Answering the one, central question of what is to be achieved by the aircraft cabin refurbishment project, and allowing plenty of time to achieve it will help ensure a satisfied aircraft owner flies away from the MRO center in a fully-functioning, bespoke cabin.
MI: www.lbas.de or www.ohs.aero