VIP cabins for narrowbody airliners have stuck to traditional approaches with little thought for the practicalities of aircraft. This is the basis upon which SR Technics (Booth 2425) set out to redefine the approach to cabin design based on what it sees as a changing customer base, with younger generations of travelers who are more casual and more tech-savvy.
“Eighteen months of research…sees the introduction of an innovative design package that transforms the way cabins are currently completed and managed,” said the company when it revealed the new package on April 29, with SR Technics’ specialists giving journalists a full preview at its Zurich headquarters. The official launch is happening here at EBACE this week.
“The aviation industry has been conservative in the modernization of private aircraft [cabin] design,” said Eric Jan, SR Technic head of VIP interior design. “From the organization of space to construction of the interior, VIP aircraft have traditionally been set up in a standard layout…It’s time to rethink narrowbody interiors…We are therefore rewriting the rules of VIP completions.”
Central to the new design approach is making the galley part of the VIP area, usable by both passengers and crew. Another striking difference compared to previous designs is a large entrance area, which leads into the galley. In addition, the cabin’s relatively symmetrical design with wide walkway allows passengers to traverse the interior easily–with an increasing level of privacy as they approach the bedroom and the toilet at the back. There are sliding doors at various points, depending on whatever partition is required. The bedroom is not traditional, either, with no permanent bed–only styles that transform from other furniture.
To aid in later modifications and to help with resale value of aircraft, the company has taken a modular approach, which also means there is commonality among some units which brings costs down by as much as 20 percent and will ultimately allow completion time to be reduced from eight months to six months or less compared to a typical narrowbody completion time of 12 months, said Jan.
In addition, the larger entrance and wider design, as well as the standardized units, means later configuration changes can be viable, whereas they are often too costly and, therefore, not viable in current VIP cabins, particularly for older aircraft.
Despite a level of standardization, the cabin is available in three broad styles: Classic, Elegant and Modern.
VIP Ramp Up
Urs Kunzelmann, vice president SR Technics VIP Aircraft Services, told AIN the company started to ramp up its VIP business in 2010, handing over its first aircraft–an Airbus widebody VIP completion–in late 2011. Since then it has been drawing up plans to become a specialist in a niche area that it can create as an innovator.
Kunzelmann said that because VIP completions is not SR Technics’ main business it is able to offer a more relaxed approach providing greater attention to detail in that arena, while its main MRO business can be a real attraction for clients looking for maintenance support following the completion. The Mubadala-owned company has a worldwide maintenance network; its main client is Swiss International Airlines (others include Qatar Airways, Finnair and all easyJet heavy checks at its MRO hangar in Malta).
Part of its preparation to handle completions work has involved the segregation of SR Technics’ original hangar, so its VIP clients can be assured of discretion. For example, only a limited number of employees working on the project directly will have access to the aircraft. AIN was shown this hangar and the vast facilities that SR Technics has at its disposal at its Zurich base, where heavy maintenance checks and engine strip-downs for various airliner types are its bread and butter. The VIP hangar can accommodate two narrowbody aircraft comfortably and a maximum of three, said Kunzelmann.
The company has invested in a number of specialized machines for creating VIP interiors, especially for seats and cabins (for example, working with veneers). Michael Gringmuth, sales director VIP, explained that SR Technics’ approach begins with the fundamentals so users and aircraft owners get the best value, and, he said, it is different from the approach Airbus unveiled at ABACE in Shanghai in April with its “Elegance” cabin, He said the “Elegance” cabin is simply modules that can be chosen in various combinations but still result in a traditional cabin.
Ready To Go
Presenting the heavyweight design manual for the new offering, Jan said, “It’s not a concept–it’s already a solution,” adding that customers can sign up now and start to define their cabin as soon as they wish.
“Today we want to redefine the narrowbody private aircraft, take the best that exists and make it better,” said Jan. “With proper interior design starting with space distribution; you need an extremely clear and simple route between the front and back; it’s the same as a house, yacht or whatever.
“We also searched for a new shell system to surround the cabin with a new way to filter the light, shading and filtering and providing ventilation,” he added. The company has found this, he explained, and incorporated it into the design to maximize the use of daylight. “This is a key in our solution,” he said. Another key is a multi-function full-height cabinet that can be fitted at various points, providing features such as desks and screens and sliding doors/curtains. There are only four elements that comprise the basic building blocks: two- and three-place divans, seats, storage units and tables.
What the owner is left with is “a simple, upgradable, affordable product that is a very good investment,” he said. But Jan admits that this is something that will really work only for narrowbodies, and that “it is important to realize that this is for a new kind of customer” that is seen emerging around the world.” SR Technics’ research has shown it clearly that “There is a big discrepancy between what the market is offering and what the customers now want,” said Jan. And it is perfectly suited to the 737 BBJ or A320 family ACJs, he concluded.