Despite the worldwide economic slump and the threat of war in Iraq, the fourth annual Aircraft Interiors Expo 2003 opened its doors at Germany’s Hamburg Messe conference center in late February, and organizers and exhibitors alike appeared pleasantly surprised at the industry response to this largest expo to date.
While the 242 exhibitors represented just one more than at last year’s show, total exhibit space increased by about 25 percent from last year. No less encouraging was the number of visitors. Representing 77 countries, visitors totaled more than 7,000, about 2,000 more than the previous year. And although open to the public, the expo appears to be drawing the people that exhibitors are there to meet.
Patrice LaSusa, commercial sales manager for Armonk, N.Y.-based carpet and fabrics specialist Tapis, told AIN, “I saw a good blend of our own customers and a lot of new people from design firms and OEMs that we wanted to reach. It’s global in nature, and the people stopping at our stand were definitely interested specifically in aircraft interior products.”
Tony Robinson, managing director for the organizer, UK & International Press Events, has seen the expo grow from 60 exhibitors and about 1,600 visitors at the show’s debut in 1998 in Cannes, France. In an interview at the show, he noted with obvious satisfaction that “virtually all” of the 65,620 sq ft of space occupied by exhibitors this year has already been reserved for next year’s expo.
Global Uncertainty and Cancellations
As for the razor-thin increase in exhibitors, Robinson pointed out that about 25 companies had canceled in the two months before the February 26 to 28 show. He attributed these withdrawals to “a combination of global uncertainty and general economic conditions.”
While the future of Aircraft Interiors Expo appears healthy, the number of exhibitors whose specific market is in the business aviation sector remains relatively small, perhaps 20 percent.
Nevertheless, a number of independent business aviation completion and refurb centers from western Europe and the U.S. were in attendance, including UK-based Bell Bespoke Interiors of Nottingham, MacCarthy Interiors of Redhill, Surrey, and Marshall Aerospace of Cambridge, as well as C&D Aerospace of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Other companies at the show had obvious interests in both the business aircraft and airline markets, including B/E Aerospace of Wellington, Fla.; Phoenix-based Goodrich Aircraft Interior Products; Goodrich Hella Aerospace Lighting Systems of Lippstad, Germany; and Lufthansa Technik of Hamburg.
Eastern Europe was well represented by two major business aircraft interior completion and refurb shops–Kvand and InterAMI Interior. Kvand, a Russian company with facilities in Minsk, Belarus, had a partial VIP cabin mockup suitable for a Tupolev Tu-134 or the newer Tu-204. InterAMI, based in Kharkov, Ukraine, offered a partial interior mockup for an Antonov An-75TK-300.
Airbus, Boeing and Leather
Both Airbus and Boeing were much in evidence at the show with substantial exhibits. Airbus, with an eye to the corporate shuttle and airline all-business-class markets, was heavily promoting its 48-passenger Airbus Corporate Jetliner with a cabin mockup. Boeing, with an equally prominent exhibit, had a small representation from its Boeing Business Jets subsidiary but was focused primarily on fleet modernization through its Interiors Center of Excellence.
Perhaps the largest representative group providing business aircraft interior products were the suppliers of leathers, fabrics and carpeting–20 in all, and many of them well known to the business aviation industry, from high-end leather specialists Skandia and Townsend to custom carpet manufacturers Kalogridis International and Tekima Atelier Fur Teppichkunst.
The conference sessions on Friday morning, the final day of the show, were devoted to subjects of interest to business aviation: how outsourcing can adversely affect a completion schedule; network-based cabin solutions; advantages of larger cabins for corporate and VIP operators; scaling down the luxury components of large corporate jets to fit smaller aircraft; and independent surveillance and quality assurance of an interior completion.
While business aviation exhibitors seemed generally pleased, even enthusiastic, about the expo, the bizav conference sessions were sparsely attended.
Airbus corporate jetliner v-p Richard Gaona did little to follow the outline provided with regard to the subject–the advantage of the larger cabin for corporate and VIP operators. Rather, he took the opportunity to promote the Airbus cabin and its claimed advantages over the Boeing Business Jet cabin.
Other speakers offered somewhat broader insights into the completion process. Andrew Muirhead, the Australian-born director of in-flight entertainment for Lufthansa Technik, gave the audience a glimpse of the future in cabin avionics, noting that the current hot button is “connectivity.”
“The Internet today is what television was in the 1960s,” he said. “It is the medium of the future. This new century will see an explosion in wireless-based solutions, [and it will include] one network, one remote control system and one place for information–complete cabin control at the passenger’s fingertips.”
As for the low attendance at the conference sessions–about 30 people per session in a room equipped to hold nearly 200–Jerry Gore of Gore Design Completions speculated that the cost, about $700 per person, may have accounted for the empty seats.
‘Big, Big, Busy!’
On the other hand, few exhibitors had anything negative to say about the expo. A representative of Kvand described activity at the cabin mockup as “incredible” and indicated that the Russian company expected to return next year.
At the B/E Aerospace stand, the first two days often saw visitors lined up to talk with company representatives. Asked how things were going, one B/E executive said with a broad smile, “Big, big, busy!”
Associated Air Center executive
v-p Patricio Altuna was curious enough to visit the show and told AIN that he came away “pleasantly surprised at how well attended it was.”
Altuna took advantage of the expo to visit executives from exhibitor CTT, the Swedish manufacturer of the cabin Zonal Comfort system. Altuna said the Dallas-based completion and refurb center is installing the system in an executive Boeing 767.
Altuna also noted some innovative cabinetry presented by Kvand, in particular an electric conference/ dining table neatly hidden within a centerline partial cabin divider.
The increased activity at the expo has prompted organizer Robinson to examine his options for expanding the 2004 expo. The first step, he said, would be to add Hall 7 with an additional 13,000 sq ft. And if necessary, he added, Hall 6 with another 13,000 sq ft might also be used. “I would expect the floor area of the  interiors expo to expand by around 35 to 50 percent.”
The interiors show is held simultaneously with the Passenger Terminal Expo, and this year it also shared space with the first-ever Aerospace Testing Expo. Despite its debut as the little sister of the Passenger Terminal Expo, the interior show now occupies twice the area of exhibitor space.
Next year’s events will again occupy the Hamburg Messe center, with the Aircraft Interiors Expo set to run from March 30 through April 1.
Lufthansa Technik Opens U.S. Facility
Lufthansa Technik has expanded its U.S. presence with a new completion engineering office. The facility was opened in January in Tulsa, Okla., not far from the Hamburg, Germany-based company’s BizJet International maintenance and engine overhaul subsidiary.
The office, which opened with a total of 10 engineers and a half-dozen administrative people, will focus primarily on design and engineering for large executive and VIP aircraft interiors.
A spokesman at February’s Aircraft Interiors Expo 2003 in Hamburg said the move was prompted by a shortage of engineers in Germany with experience in large-aircraft interior design. He added that at some point BizJet International, which also provides some aircraft cabin refurbishment for business aircraft, may also take advantage of the engineering capabilities of the new office.
Lufthansa Technik had considered opening the completion engineering office at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport facilities vacated last year with the closing of the Garrett Santa Barbara completion and refurb center. Lower labor and overhead costs were factors in choosing the Tulsa site.
The new Tulsa office is a limited liability joint venture with aviation investment holding company Yankee Pacific Executive Aircraft Completions, LLC, of Rye, N.H. Lufthansa Technik is the majority partner with a 51-percent share.
Yankee Pacific founder Ken Goldsmith is the new company’s president and COO. Goldsmith was among three partners and other investors who bought Garrett Aviation from AlliedSignal in 1994. Goldsmith subsequently worked for General Electric following its acquisition of Garrett Aviation in 1997.
Zonal Comfort for BBJ2
Sweden’s CTT Systems announced at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2003 that it has begun delivery of the first Zonal Comfort System for installation in a BBJ2. The interior is being finished by Hamburg-based Lufthansa Technik and the aircraft is scheduled for delivery this summer.
The company, based in Nykoping, Sweden, also plans to deliver another Zonal Comfort System in December, “at the customer’s request,” for an executive Boeing 767-200 being finished by Associated Air Center at Dallas Love Field.
CTT’s Zonal Comfort System was created to maintain a healthier and more comfortable cabin humidity level of about 25 to 35 percent. At the same time, it removes moisture-laden air between the cabin shell and the aircraft insulation layer, eliminating the problem of “rain in the airplane.”
The system has already been installed in four BBJs and will go into service in an executive/VIP Boeing 747SP to be delivered this year by Jet Aviation in Basel, Switzerland. And according to director of sales and marketing Gunnar Nilsson, Airbus is considering making the Zonal Comfort System optional on its Airbus Corporate Jetliner and its airline products. The system has been in service for more than a year on an SAS 767.
The Zonal Comfort System costs about $154,000, uninstalled, and typically adds between about 88 and 110 pounds of weight. In the BBJ and ACJ, it is designed to be added to the aircraft before installation of the auxiliary fuel tanks and the cabin shell and requires about 200 to 300 manhours. Price, weight and installation time vary from one aircraft to another.
Eastern European Interior Shops Competitive
Eastern Europe was well represented at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2003. Two exhibitors from Russia and the CIS–Kvand and InterAMI Interior–both offered high-end executive and VIP aircraft interiors, aggressively marketing head-to-head for the business aircraft interiors market east of the Danube.
Kvand, founded five years ago, is a Russian company with facilities in Minsk, Belarus. Led by director Oleg Ponomarev, the company tested the market waters at last year’s show with a VIP-configured Yakovlev Yak-42 half-cabin mockup. This year, the exhibit quadrupled in size with a center-stage stand. On display was a new full-cabin VIP mockup suitable for a Tupolev Tu-134 or Tu-204. In addition to satcom, the exhibit amenities included vodka and caviar, just in case anyone should be unsure of the host’s identity.
Associated Air Center executive v-p Patricio Altuna was a visitor at its booth and was particularly impressed with the quality of the Kvand workmanship, and in particular with “some pretty innovative cabinetry,” referring to an electrically operated conference/dining table neatly hidden within a centerline cabin divider.
Ponomarev told AIN that business aircraft are, of necessity, a fast-growing segment of the Russian aviation industry. “It takes a long time to cover the vast area of our country, and passengers want to do it quickly and in safety and comfort.”
He also noted that Kvand, while using U.S. and European vendors for many cabin components, is also developing its own components. Among them is a 16-g seat now undergoing dynamic testing and scheduled for FAA certification “sometime this summer.”
InterAMI had its own substantial exhibit at the expo, with a partial cabin mockup for a VIP Antonov An-74TK-300. The final design is already being installed in an aircraft.
InterAMI, founded in 1999 and based in Kharkov, Ukraine, is closely associated with Antonov ASTC and the Kharkov State Aircraft Manufacturing. It outfits both airline and business aircraft cabins.
Its first VIP interior was for an Mi-8 helicopter and included satcom, a lavatory, cabinetry and a folding table. Other early InterAMI projects included two Antonov An-74TK-200 interiors. One is a VIP layout for four passengers and the other a combi-configured cargo/passenger interior. The Ukraine government has since ordered two An-74TK-300 VIP interiors for official use. One has already been installed.
With its experience in installing An-74 interiors, the company appears to be the front-runner to provide a new An-74TK-300 interior for Ukraine president Leonid Kuchma.
Among the An-74 proposals offered at the Hamburg show was an interesting configuration with VIP seating forward for five passengers, 10 more executive seats amidship and an aft cargo compartment to carry an automobile.
InterAMI was also promoting executive/VIP interiors in a variety of configurations for the An 124, the Czech-made Let L-410 twin turboprop, an Mi-8 helicopter, and the Yak-40 and -42 trijets.
While it might not have been directed at the right audience, the InterAMI brochure also noted the company’s experience in designing, building and installing VIP rail car interiors.
Representatives of both companies expressed satisfaction with the expo, as well as their intentions to return for next year’s show.
While neither company openly suggests it is actively marketing to owners of Western-built business jets, both made it clear by their presence that they are not reluctant to go head-to-head with European competitors that have been doing executive/VIP interiors for some Russian and CIS customers.