Not so long ago, the owner of an executive Boeing 737 approached the aircraft carpeting specialists at Kalogridis International with a rather unusual request. The floor of the foreign-registered airplane was covered in common stick-down felt carpet tiles, and he wanted the same thing in a replacement carpet.
Instead of dismissing the idea out of hand as not only impractical but perhaps aesthetically unattractive, and almost certain to fail any existing FAA fire-blocking codes, the carpet-makers at the Dallas-based company saw it as a challenge. The result is a new product that owner and founder George Kalogridis describes as. It is a line of carpet tiles, comparable to current aircraft carpeting in terms of price and quality, yet with the advantage of being more practical to maintain and replace.
It is not uncommon for customers to order two, or even three, shipsets of carpeting, so that a replacement is available when the original must be taken up and sent for cleaning. And often, in the interest of keeping the airplane flying, customers will delay cleaning the original carpet until it simply becomes impractical and must be tossed out, at a considerable loss.
For the owner of a Gulfstream, the original carpet may have cost as much as $19,000, uninstalled. “That’s lot of money to strip off the floor and toss in the trash,” said Kendall Evans, director of sales and marketing. “Our new carpet tiles will offer a very practical and very visually attractive alternative to that.”
She said Kalogridis expects that rather than order two full shipsets of carpet tiles, customers will order only the number of tiles they expect to have to replace over the total life of the carpet, as sections or individual tiles are soiled or damaged.
And what’s more, she pointed out, “on an extended trip, they can toss a half-dozen or dozen tiles in the baggage compartment. Then, if some of the original tiles are stained, anyone in the crew can simply pull up the old ones and replace them with new ones in just a few minutes.”
Kalogridis expects to offer the new carpet tiles in three quality grades, up to the same 100-percent wool high-end, hand-tufted product it has provided since the company was started 23 years ago.
“The tiles can be designed as simply one solid color, or as complex as any of our other designs,” said Evans, “as long as it is produced in a grid pattern.” Even certain carved designs might be compatible with the carpet tile concept, she added.
The company expects initially to produce the tiles in both 12- by 12-in. and 24- by 24-in. sizes. And Evans noted that like the single-piece carpet, once the customer has run out of tiles produced from a single dye lot, replacements would not be available.
The biggest problem with the tiled-carpet concept was solving the puzzle of how to apply the tiles without fear that they will come loose. The company is still considering several possibilities, including a sticky adhesive backing, double-sided tape and clips.
“That’s the biggest challenge,” said Evans, who had previously worked as an aircraft interior designer for Bombardier and Gulfstream and as a carpet designer
Kalogridis International was started by George Kalogridis in his Dallas apartment in 1978. An artist by education and nature, his association with aviation began at a young age when his family owned the Jet East FBO at Dallas Love Field.
In talking with passing pilots, he had heard them complain that the commercial carpeting then standard in many business aircraft created troublesome static and that the fine bits of synthetic fiber often found their way into cabin air filters, adding to problems of clogging.
Seeing an opportunity, Kalogridis taught himself the art of hand-tufting and carpet making. By 1996, the company was moving from a 17,000-sq-ft building into a 50,000-sq-ft facility. Today, the new Kalogridis plant, just minutes from Love Field, totals 110,000 sq ft and is shipping as many as 15 carpets daily. Its customers include virtually every business aviation manufacturer and independent completion and refurb center. After 23 years, 99 percent of Kalogridis’ market is aviation related.