ABACE Convention News

Luxury VIP Cabins Increasing In Popularity

 - April 15, 2014, 1:54 PM
Jet Aviation Basel’s “Visionary” cabin interior for VIP widebody aircraft may provide a glimpse into the future, particularly as manufacturers increasingly introduce lightweight airframes of composite structures.

More than simply transportation, a business jet can serve as flying office, airborne home and luxury retreat, its fuselage a blank canvas within which an owner, interior design team and completion specialists can create a “working” work of art. Here at ABACE 2014 in Shanghai, attendees can see the results in the stunning interiors of aircraft on static display, and in presentations at the booths of the world’s leading VIP aircraft interior completion and refurbishment specialists.

Aeria Luxury Interiors (Booth H229) of San Antonio, Texas, a subsidiary of ST Aerospace, a VIP completion center for Airbus and Boeing executive airliners, is displaying at its booth conceptual renderings prepared by its interior design team for Boeing narrowbody and widebody aircraft. Key management executives from AERIA and ST Aerospace, including Ron Soret, vice president and general manager of completions, are here to meet with current and prospective customers.

On the heels of its cabin refurbishment of a Boeing 767-200, Aeria is preparing for its first BBJ green cabin completion, which will include a dedicated forward crew lounge, an efficiently equipped galley, dining suite, conference room, large resting lounge and master suite. A state-of-the-art digital entertainment system with multiple hi-definition screens will be installed for an “indulgent” theater experience on board, along with Inmarsat and Iridium satellite communications systems and high-speed Wi-Fi system. A humidification and zonal drying system will enhance passenger comfort. The aircraft is scheduled to arrive at Aeria in December 2014, with completion anticipated by October 2015.

Over the past two years Aeria has remodeled its 100,000-sq-ft hangar and shop areas and offices to meet anticipated demand for completions and refurbishment, and the company recently acquired a 3-D printing capability for prototyping, proof-of-design concept, and to fabricate complex decorative pieces and nonstructural parts. This year it will create an additional 14,000 sq ft of space for a cabinetry and upholstery shop, as well as a standalone sales and interior design building.

Comlux (Booth H718) concentrates its completions and refurbishment expertise at the Indianapolis headquarters of its Comlux America division. From there its Comlux Aviation Services subsidiary last year delivered an Airbus ACJ319 back to Malaysian operator Jet Premier One after completing heavy maintenance (including C4 and six-year checks) and a reworking of its VIP cabin. The aircraft, which is operated on behalf of the Malaysian government for head of state transportation, also was repainted externally and now features the nationalemblem.

The cabin refurbishment work involved Comlux having to get a new supplemental type certificate to establish that the equipment installed complied fully with an EASA airworthiness directives covering burn issues. The whole project was completed on schedule and to agreed qualitystandards.

“The aircraft is really impeccable,” said Capt. Norudin Abd. Majid. “I am particularly pleased with the upholstery and the finish on the wood work accomplished by Comlux craftsmen in the VIP cabin. Despite challenges faced due to the complexity of the cabin rework, the overall project went extremely smoothly and the aircraft was delivered on time, reflecting Comlux’s spirit andcommitment.”

In February, Comlux received an order to handle the completion of an ACJ320 aircraft that is due to arrive at the company’s new hangar in Indianapolis before the end of June. The widebody jet’s interior is being designed by the Swiss-based group’s Comlux Creatives cabin design department. It will feature a forward lounge and master suite area, and just beyond this will be a dining room in which food prepared in one of two galleys can be served.

The ACJ also will include a “business class” area equipped with Swift Broadband satellite and wireless connectivity. The cabin will fature surround sound speakers, mood lighting and an upgraded insulation package to reduce interior noise levels. Comlux has significant experience of completions and refurbishment work for both Airbus and Boeing models, as well as for smaller business aircraft, including Bombardier’s products.

Flying Colours Corp. (Booth H606) of Ontario, Canada, which specializes in completions and refurbishments of Bombardier aircraft, is exhibiting here at ABACE for the third consecutive year. “We have a complete sales team in attendance as well as our Asian designers, and have numerous meetings already arranged,” said Sean Gillespie, executive v-p sales and marketing.

Over the past three years Flying Colours has delivered numerous Challenger 850 completions to China under its preferred completion center agreement with Bombardier, and is currently involved in green Challenger completions for several Asia-based clients, along with numerous refurbishments, including a Challenger 604 for a Chinese operator.

“We also just recently completed a full pre-owned Challenger 850 completion for a Hong Kong-based client that included a complete carbon-fiber interior, seats and divans finished in exotic leathers and fabrics, IFE upgrades and Wi-Fi Internet,” Gillespie said.

The company’s CRJ ExecLiner conversion program, which converts a standard CRJ into VIP business jet, is also active in China, and the first conversion for a China-based client, which will include full CAAC certification of the ExecLiner interior and auxiliary fuel system is near completion. The 15-passenger interior will have three cabins, state-of-the-art IFE system, dual lavatories and a long-range fuel system.

“We are also actively exploring joint ventures with Asian-based clients,” said Gillespie. The company recently announced a partnership with Bombardier to provide interior support and refurbishment at the new Bombardier service center in Singapore, and is in the process of setting up the and staffing the facility. Meanwhile, at its Peterborough, Ontario headquarters, Flying Colours last month opened a $2.5 million, 20,000-sq-ft hangar expansion, and this month is upgrading its paint facility with a $750,000 investment.

Fokker Services (Booth P511) of the Netherlands, for example, demonstrates here in Shanghai that with more than 100 years of experience in the aviation industry, its VIP cabin completions and refurbishments are thoroughly up to date. Specializing in narrowbody executive airliners–the Airbus ACJ and Boeing BBJ families–Fokker is highlighting its recent completion of “the only A320 [ACJ] that can carry 26 passengers and be operated for commercial use,” said James Aspell, Fokker’s v-p technical services and aircraft completions and conversions.

“To have this completion certified, the cabin of this aircraft had to be compliant with heat-release requirements, something which we achieved in relatively short time frame thanks to employing our own compliance verification engineers and our close relationship with EASA and the FAA.” The company’s refurbishment capabilities include IFE (in-flight entertainment) and CMS (cabin management system) upgrades. Currently, Fokker is completing a green A319 ACJ, scheduled for delivery in first-quarter 2015.

A sales representative from Fokker’s local China office is joining Aspell at the company’s booth, where attendees can view photos and movies of the company’s recent VIP cabin completions and design concepts, as well as take a visual tour of its facilities in Holland. Fokker’s four hangars can host up to five narrowbody and five regional aircraft, and one hangar will be extended this year to accommodate and additional narrowbody aircraft.

Aspell invites owners, operators, designers and brokers who are “truly looking for European craftsmanship and quality supported by a reputable VIP completions and refurbishment company that’s easy to work with” to drop by or schedule an appointment.

Italian-flavored Brands

Custom interior design and installation facility Delta Interiors (Booth P509) of Italy is displaying “Italian-flavored brands” here at ABACE, said Matteo Bulletti, the company’s general director. “We are happily surprised that Chinese customers are really liking our Italian design,” Bulletti tells AIN. “We can provide a luxury interior, completely custom made, and can assist the customer from A to Z.” Bulletti invites “aircraft owners who are looking for bespoken luxury interior, and maintenance managers looking for a reliable partner for their interior rework” to visit the company’s booth. He reports Delta has just signed a contract to provide the interior work for 16 aircraft for a Chinese OEM that he declines to identify, deferring the announcement to the manufacturer. Delta has just equipped a new facility for production and finishing of these interiors.

Hamburg-based Lufthansa Technik (Booth H614) comes to Shanghai with close to 100 VIP cabin completions to its credit, including recent green completions on an ACJ and BBJ2, and it’s currently completing three Boeing widebodies: two 747-8s and a 767. Company spokesperson Wolfgang Reinert noted the company also performs minor and major cabin refurbishments, in addition to providing a portfolio of VIP and executive jet services spanning the entire life cycle of VIP aircraft.“We’re a must visit for any VIP or corporate jet client and aircraft management company operating or planning to operate an Airbus or Boeing aircraft,” Reinert said.

Joining Lufthansa Technik at the booth is U.S. subsidiary Bizjet International of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is focused solely on narrowbody Airbus and Boeing VIP completions. A green BBJ the company completed for an undisclosed Chinese customer and delivered to Nanshan Jet is on view here at Boeing’s ABACE static display. “This is our first green BBJ completion delivered to China, but the seventh overall completion to China,” said Brian Barber, Bizjet International’s v-p sales and marketing, noting the company has previously delivered refurbished BBJs and completed green ACJs for Chinese customers. “We want to showcase our knowledge of working with Chinese culture and Chinese aviation authorities and the CAAC,” he said.

Bizjet International recently signed a completion contract for a BBJ2 and is in discussions with several Chinese customers for additional VIP completions, Barber said. The company is also highlighting the expansion of its facilities to meet expected demand for refurbishment of legacy BBJs and ACJs. “We’re at the beginning of the curve for the heavy checks and the lifecycle upgrades of these airplanes, so we need to have the capacity for VIP operators to have a place to take them,” he added.

Customized Floatplanes and More

Primarily known as a seaplane float manufacturer, Wipaire (Booth P533) of South St. Paul, Minnesota, is showcasing its luxury custom interior configuration and finishings work for Cessna Caravan, Cessna Grand Caravan (including the EX) and Twin Otter aircraft. Wipaire’s Chinese distributor, Alfred Lau of Aviation Supplies Ltd., joins the staff at the booth, where attendees can see photos of recent interior work such as a custom Caravan interior with carpet, cabinets and seats, and a partial executive configuration for a new Twin Otter. The luxury interiors really stand out when paired with floats, which together allow one to travel to the remotest of locations in the utmost comfort.

“Anyone looking to offer a unique air taxi experience will definitely want to explore the option of floats, which are also available for a wide variety of smaller aircraft,” said a Wipaire spokesperson, identifying “air taxi operators, waterfront resorts, other businesses with water sources nearby, and wealthy people looking for convenient travel to remote locations or destinations with water access” as natural customers.

Wipaire recently added an additional manufacturing facility for its float and interiors manufacturing, and is adding cabinet-making capabilities to its in-house interior shop. The company also offers maintenance services as a Cessna single-engine and Caravan service center, a Quest authorized service center and a Viking factory-endorsed service center.

Narrow and Wide Bodies

Switzerland’s Jet Aviation (Booth P328) has performed more than 200 aircraft completions since its 1967 founding, and here at ABACE key personnel including Ruedi Kraft, v-p market development and completions sales, and Matthew Woollaston, director completions sales and market development, are ready to discuss how the company can support customers in Asia.

Jet Aviation recently signed a new completion contract for an ACJ A320, which will join completions for an Airbus A340 and Boeing BBJ, and other narrow- and widebody projects–several for Asia-based customers–currently under way at its Basel Completions Center. Jet Aviation Basel is also readying itself for Boeing 787 VVIP interior completions. The company’s “Timeless to Visionary” widebody cabin interior designs won the SBID 2013 International Design Award in the Contract Visualization category, and attendees can see a video of these designs onscreen at the company’s booth.

Jet Aviation has also been reducing cycle time for its completions, implementing new business practices and making investments in engineering, such as 3-D engineering capabilities, and production shops, including full systems integration in the cabinet shop. The company invites any attendees considering a completion or refurbishment project, or who are interested in maintenance, charter and aircraft management services, to visit its booth.

Among other noteworthy cabin completion and rebfurbishment experts here at ABACE: Hong Kong-based Asian Sky Group consultancy (Chalet 15), which has offices throughout China, offers completion management and interior definition and completion center selection among its services. Texas-based Aeristo (Booth P515) is showcasing its fine leathers and sheepskins–which meet all FAA specifications–and seating comfort systems, all created for VIP aircraft interiors. PATS Aircraft Systems (Booth H410) of Delaware is showcasing its interior completions and refurbishment capabilities for narrowbody VIP executive airliners, as well as its airframe maintenance services.

China Expands Its Completions Skills Base

Chinese companies are starting to move into the VIP aircraft completions and refurbishment market. For instance, next month Ameco Beijing is opening a new hangar dedicated to providing completions and maintenance for business aircraft. The new facility will be able to accommodate one widebody aircraft and three narrowbodies simultaneously and has interiors workshops alongside it.

According to Ameco Beijing (Booth H324), which is a joint venture between Air China and Lufthansa German Airlines, it has been handling VIP completions of Boeing and Airbus aircraft in China since the 1990s. It offers a comprehensive service covering all aspects of design, engineering, manufacturing, installation and certification of cabin interiors.

China Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Co. (Booth H705), the first private MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) facility in China, is also highlighting its capabilities as the country’s first MRO provider to offer interior modifications and refurbishment for small and mid-size business jets. And Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Co. (Booth H318), the only Airbus and Boeing approved cabin completion center in Asia, can handle VIP projects from green completions to modifications and refurbishment, and offers conceptual design, procurement, cabinetry, upholstery, installation and certification services.