EBACE Convention News

Geneva refurbisher plans for growth

 - November 29, 2006, 11:10 AM

High-end, Geneva-based cabin refurbishing specialist Burnet Interiors is boosting its skilled workforce from 18 to 25 to meet rising customer demand. Simultaneously, its 7,500-sq-ft facility on the northwest side of Geneva International Airport is growing by 15 percent, although the company would like to expand that as well.

According to chief executive Franck Burnet, the firm is increasingly involved in converting regional airliners, such as Fokker jets and ATR turboprops, into business or private airplanes. “Big VIP aircraft, such as Boeing 747s, are influencing the average size and layout of smaller cabins. We are moving away from the ‘tube with seats’ to a cabin that includes more private areas,” he told EBACE Convention News.

Last year, the 40-year-old firm was talking about almost doubling its workshop floor surface, but, according to its CEO, Geneva airport authorities eventually disallowed the construction of additional buildings. Nevertheless, Burnet said he is satisfied the resulting smaller growth, which is to be completed early in the second half of this year. “We will be able to reorganize our workshop, separating each specialty–carpets, seats and so on,” he said.

In addition, customers should enjoy improved facilities, including a new show room, an upgraded reception area and a dedicated conference room where they can join Burnet experts to work on the design of their new cabin.

Asked about new trends in cabin interiors, Burnet said some customers are requesting decoration schemes similar to those in their apartments and houses. He also explained that Burnet craftsmen work when the airframes are down for maintenance–light repairs or, more often, complete overhauls–to minimize downtime.

Skills honed by Burnet Interiors’ experts include crafts work on leather, wood, carpets and so forth–materials that must meet increasingly stringent nonflammability requirements. They can also design an entire new cabin layout with a strong emphasis on ergonomics, the CEO said. They prepare furniture for the integration of in-flight entertainment equipment, although they do not install it. A complete cabin refurbishing can take from five to 12 weeks, Burnet said, placing a heavy emphasis on the Swiss reputation for a quality finish.

The company performs cabin refurbishing jobs at its Geneva location on a wide range of business jets, including Dassault Falcons, Bombardier’s Global and Challenger families, Gulfstreams and Cessna Citations. Burnet also has completed interiors on Eurocopter helicopters. These activities account for some 85 percent of its revenues.

The remaining 15 percent of its business is generated at customer bases where kits are installed on site. “We deliver complete kits with seats, tables and dividing walls,” the CEO explained. These kits are fitted into airplanes such as BAC-111s, ATR 42s and Fokker 100s.

Burnet said his customers come from regions as far away as Asia and Polynesia. He cited the example of the company delivering a VIP kit for an ATR 42 forward cabin to Cuba’s President Fidel Castro a few years ago. And, with Cuba in mind, Burnet is staging its fourth annual Cigar Night here in Geneva during the EBACE show.