The interior of today’s business jet is a marvel of design and engineering, combining artistry, ingenuity, practicality, and luxury. OEMs invest heavily to stay ahead of the competition in delivering cabin comfort and style, yet the custom cabin community, the specialists that complete new and refurbish old executive aircraft, often set the pace on interior innovation and aesthetics. The following article highlights what some of the world’s leading completions and refurbishment companies are showcasing at ABACE here in Shanghai.
Amac Aerospace is a few weeks away from finishing a lavish completion of an Airbus ACJ319 for an undisclosed Chinese customer. The company’s Basel, Switzerland, facility have also been busy working on a head-of-state/VVIP-configured Boeing 747-8 for an owner based in the Middle East and it also recently started working on its third VIP Boeing 777 completion.
The group’s success in both the completions and maintenance fields has prompted further expansion plans in Basel, where it intends to open a fourth hangar in October 2015. The addition of the 78,364-sq-ft (7,289 sq-m) building will increase Amac’s overall hangar space by 35 percent, giving space for additional workshops, offices and storage areas. It will be able to accommodate one widebody jet or a pair of narrowbodies.
The ACJ319 now being finished is the second of its type that Amac has completed, and its 12th airliner-class completion since its launch back in 2007. The design features extensive use of carbon fiber that has involved extensive materials research by the company’s engineering team.
Amac also holds maintenance approvals for various Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Gulfstream aircraft. From its facility in Istanbul, Turkey, it also provides support for the Pilatus PC-12 and Dassault Falcons.
Aeria Luxury Interiors (Booth H101) returns to ABACE on the heels of winning its first contracts for a green BBJ completion, and nose-to-tail wide-body executive cabin completion. Here at the show the Texas-based company is highlighting its integrated custom green completions, as well as its maintenance and refurbishment capabilities. Aeria is currently providing heavy maintenance on three executive-configured Boeing 757 aircraft, one for a Head of State.
A member of ST Aerospace’s network, the U.S. affiliate leverages its parent company’s global MRO reach, with facilities in Guangzhou, Xiamen and Singapore, to help service customers in China and in the Asia Pacific region. Based in San Antonio, a capital of completions centers, Aeria’s 100,000-sq-ft hangar is currently at full capacity, the company said, and a 21,000-sq-ft expansion for a two-story cabinetry and upholstery shop, and sales/marketing and design building is in the works.
What a difference a year has made for Bombardier completion specialist Flying Colours (Booth H320), here at ABACE for the fourth time. After last year’s gathering, the Canadian company partnered with China’s Sparkle Roll Aviation to work jointly on aircraft refurbishment projects, and this year the company is touting the first project-in-progress, the conversion of eight CRJs into executive aircraft.
Flying Colours’ ExecLiner conversions and green Challenger 850 completions, along with its experience dealing with the CAAC, make it a good partner, said Eric Gillespie, the company’s v-p. “Our understanding of the certification paperwork, registration process, STCs and extensive modification knowledge complemented [Sparkle Roll’s] ambitions to further develop this sector of their aviation business,” added Gillespie.
The conversions will be performed at Flying Colours’ facility in Peterborough, Canada, with the interiors ranging from executive configuration to shuttle. Sparkle Roll technicians are undergoing training in completion processes and techniques, and will assist in the conversions at the facility. The first three 850s have been inducted and will be finished as mixed-class, with half corporate shuttle, half VIP combo interiors. The interiors of the remaining five, due at the facility this spring, are still being finalized. All will feature Ebony Black seat leather, and black trim with rose-gold plating, and an exterior custom SR Jet scheme with in mauve palette. The long term plan calls for transferring the conversion work to China.
Flying Colours is also celebrating the February opening of its Singapore maintenance, repair and overhaul facility, which includes a full finishing shop for woodwork, upholstery shop, and paint spray booth. “There’s a lot of demand in the Asia Pacific region” for completion and refurbishment services, said Gillespie.
Two projects have already been completed: A Challenger 605 softgoods and woodwork refurbishing (restaining and refinishing); and an upholstery refurbishment on a Bombardier Global. A team of about a dozen is on site, combining four technicians from the home office to assist with the transition, and local employees the company has hired and is training. “The idea is to have a 100 percent local workforce,” Gillespie said. “The skilled people are good, they just need training in business aviation.”
Zurich-based Comlux (Booth P132), well known for its global charter and aircraft management services, is also showcasing here at ABACE 2015 its cabin completion and refurbishment capabilities. The company has been gaining traction in China in all three categories since opening its Hong Kong office in 2012. Comlux’s entrée to completions in the region came through its acquisitions services. Following its involvement in the sale of three aircraft, the client selected Comlux for the completions “just after the signatures” went on the sales contract, said Richard Gaona, Comlux president and CEO. “It was a good entry into the market.”
In the last year, Comlux America, the company’s completions and service center in Indianapolis, Indiana, signed two contracts (for a green ACJ320 completion and BBJ refurbishment) and delivered two green completions (a BBJ and ACJ321) for customers in Asia. The new BBJ cabin features “ultra-modern” custom electric POD seats created by Iacobucci, and four different configurations with lounges and offices that convert to bedrooms. The ACJ321 is the first of its type ever completed, according to Comlux. Working against an “extremely strict timeline for redelivery,” Comlux America not only met the schedule, but beat the weight and sound-level targets. Last month, Scott Meyer, former COO, was named CEO of the U.S. facility.
Comlux is also currently performing a BBJ cabin completion for an aircraft purchased by Hyundai, as well as an ACJ319 refurbishment for a regional customer.
Here at the show, Airbus Corporate Jets has a Comlux-completed and operated ACJ319 on static display, used to illustrate the refinement, craftsmanship and comfort of today’s ultimate executive transports.
While Comlux’s ACJ and BBJ completions garner lots of attention, Gaona noted the company also has extensive experience with Bombardier and Dassault, “and we’ll operate our first [Gulfstream] G650 in a couple of weeks,” he said.
Gulfstream Aerospace (Chalet and Static display), known for its globe-girdling business jets, is also in the refurbishment business, and here at ABACE 2015, the U.S.-based OEM is promoting its ability to transform older Gulfstreams into like-new jets. Members of Gulfstream’s product support team are here to speak with Gulfstream owners and operators about retrofit and refurbishment options, such as possible upgrades to the aircraft’s avionics, cabin and/or communication systems. “Our team’s on-site resources at ABACE include mobile tools, including one that creates interior renderings,” said Matt Huhn, Gulfstream’s director, product support business and program support. Huhn noted that as the aircraft OEM, Gulfstream can offer a warranty on its refurbishments. Additionally, “We can make refurbishment decisions with the best possible understanding of how the aircraft was designed, certified and built,” he said. “The OEM’s product knowledge and intellectual property rights mean it can make more informed and better decisions about modifications and more accurate predictions of the upgrades that will impact aircraft performance and safety.”
Huhn also pointed to a benefit specific to Gulfstream: its private-label Gulfstream Portfolio Collection of fabrics, leathers and carpets. “These carefully curated materials shorten the lead time and cost for a cabin refurbishment because they are in stock,” he said.
Hong Kong-based Haeco Private Jet Solutions (HPJS, Booth P310) is showcasing its new “Xiao Yao” design concept for the ACJ (Airbus Corporate Jet) shown at ABACE for the first time, which brings feng shui principles used in traditional Chinese architecture to the executive-configured airliner cabin. These principles are expressed in the interior’s curving lines, the relative positioning of living and sleeping areas, and the balance of the “five elements” of fire, earth, metal, water and wood. “We have not seen designs that are of genuine heritage and based on the respected philosophy of ancient Chinese philosophers,” said Henry Chan, HPJS’s v-p commercial.
Haeco offers several other signature narrowbody designs. “Auspicious Clouds,” for the A319, incorporates colors, symbols and patterns associated with good fortune, the deep red of its carpet representing happiness and pleasure, while the woven cloud pattern suggests success. The inspiration for “Panda,” another A319 interior, is evident in its black and white color scheme, and the generous curve of the seats. “Lingering Garden,” or Liu Yuan, for the BBJ, features rich earth tones and was designed to create a feeling of wholeness and freely flowing style.
HPJS performs completions at Haeco Xiamen, its MRO facility at East Gaoqi International Airport in Xiamen, the only facility in Asia that is both an Airbus and Boeing approved completion center.
Jet Aviation (Booth H331), which provides a complete suite of aviation services from a score of facilities throughout the world, including Hong Kong, is highlighting here at ABACE the recent expansion of its Singapore facility, which has moved into new quarters. John Riggir, v-p and general manager, Jet Aviation Singapore, reports all regulatory approvals have been successfully transferred, and battery, wheel and interior refurbishment approvals have been added to the FAA certificate. MRO work on larger, heavy maintenance projects that encompass refurbishment work is increasing.
“Now that JSIN can offer excellent interior and exterior refurbishments and avionics upgrades in a ‘one stop shop’ environment, our proposition is becoming more attractive to regionally based customers, versus flying to the USA or Europe,” Riggir said. “We are also experiencing increased demand from the maturing fleet of long-range large-cabin aircraft that are based in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Jakarta.”
Jet Aviation is still aglow from its selection last month by Boeing Business Jets to complete the interiors of two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft for an undisclosed client in Asia. Slated to begin immediately, the project is scheduled for completion in Q3 2018.
Lufthansa Technik (LHT, Booth P118), the German completions and refurbishment specialist, is presenting here in Shanghai its entire range of VIP products and services, said Florian Krauthoff, director sales Asia, VIP and special mission aircraft. The focal point of the company’s display (Booth P118) is a scale model of a B747-8 executive airliner, being shown at ABACE–and in Asia–for the first time. The cutaway top enables attendees to see in miniature LHT’s boundary-pushing interior design and technology integration.
LHT is also highlighting its trio of completion offerings: “Executive Shuttle,” “Leadership Select,” and fully customized, highly individualized VIP cabin interiors solutions. The “Executive Shuttle” concept offers more than 20 different cabin layouts for the A320 and Boeing 737 families for executive shuttle services, with seating configurations ranging from 20 to 50-plus passengers. The interiors allow customers to provide executive shuttle service for their top-management while at the same time providing special guests an exclusive on-board ambience.
The “Leadership Select” concept allows VIP customers to combine a multitude of different pre-customized cabin elements to create an almost completely individualized VIP cabin layout. ACJ319 owners, for example, can choose from 96 layout variations, and 720 combinations are available for the longer BBJ2 and other comparable aircraft.
For clients who want the ultimate in customization, Lufthansa Technik can handle all aspects of design, production and installation of executive interiors meeting the highest standards of innovation, artistry and craftsmanship, Krauthoff said.
Also for the first time in Asia, LHT is showing its new seat, called simply “chair,” designed in association with renowned aircraft interior designer Jacques Pierrejean. “It’s not just another seat, but a revolution in seating,” Krauthoff said. Passengers want something new at the highest level.”
Additionally LHT is presenting its E-configuration tools for pre-customized cabin designs, which show 3D views of aircraft interior configurations, simplifying the mixing, matching and selection of interior design elements.
Sharing space with LHT is the company’s narrowbody completion division, U.S.-based Bizjet International (BJI), which has completion news of its own. BJI presently has three narrow-body aircraft undergoing completions for Chinese customers, said CEO Manfred Gaertner. An executive configured BBJ was on the cusp of receiving CAAC validation of STCs for one-of-a-kind installations, and delivery, as we went to press.
A head-of-state BBJ2 is midway through completion, and a green ACJ319 has just been received, with completion work scheduled to commence in Q3 of this year. One of the three completions features “the first electric mahjong table on an aircraft,” Gaertner said. Another features upholstery created in collaboration with a French design house.
Nonetheless, the Central Government’s austerity campaign, corruption crackdown, and cooling economy have chilled demand for luxury completions, and “prospects on the market right now are not looking into the VVIP segment or price range, so we speak about converting existing aircraft into executive-style VIP aircraft,” Gaertner said, echoing sentiments expressed by many. “People are really looking for more economical choices for VIP cabins.”
Separately, maintenance group Ameco Beijing, which is a joint venture between Air China and Lufthansa, opened a new hangar dedicated to business aircraft completions and repairs. The new facility can accommodate one widebody aircraft and three narrowbodies simultaneously and also has interiors workshops.
The company (Booth H215) has been involved in VIP completions of Boeing and Airbus aircraft in China since the 1990s. It now offers a comprehensive service covering all aspects of design, engineering, manufacturing, installation and certification of cabin interiors.
U.S.-based executive airliner completion and maintenance specialist Pats Aircraft Systems (Booth P728) is celebrating here at the show its “long history of success in the Asia Pacific region and China in particular,” said Matthew Hill, v-p business development. “We’re highlighting our experience over the years with 25 full, VVIP interior projects in the category, including three active BBJ interior completion projects, all of which have customers based in the Asia Pacific region.” Pats is “focused on finding cost effective ways to support the large and growing existing fleet of operating VVIP aircraft,” Hill said, including creating new solutions to update and upgrade antiquated systems.
Additionally, Pats is “now making substantial inroads in China and the larger region” in providing ODA (Organization Designation Authorization), certification and engineering services as a distinct, standalone offering, Hill said. “The service can be expanded to include the certification engineering to create the plan to satisfy the regulations and, more broadly, can include actual component or systems/integration engineering, kit manufacturing and assembly and installation services.”
Pats’ ODA has recently been delegated ICA authority, which means even greater control by Pats ODA over STC approval schedules, Hill said. “With the hundreds of STCs issued by Pats’ ODA over the years, we have broad and extensive experience receiving foreign regulatory approvals for STCs in China and worldwide including validations of our industry leading Auxiliary Fuel System STCs in just about every region where customers register aircraft.”
Wipaire (Booth P315), U.S.-based manufacturer of aircraft floats, has expanded its services to include custom refurbishment of floatplane interiors. These services are likely to become more in demand as the acceptance of floatplanes increases in China, exemplified by the CAAC’s approval a year ago for the Cessna Grand Caravan (which are now produced in China by Cessna-AVIC Aircraft (Shijiazhuang) Co., Ltd.) to operate on floats. “We have offered executive interiors for the Caravan series for years but have added cabinet-making capability in-house to support our existing soft goods capabilities,” said Amy Gesch, Wipaire’s marketing manager, promising more announcements shortly.“In 2015, we are planning on some new interiors offerings.”
Italy’s Delta Interior (Booth P104) highlights its bespoke, Italian styled expertise in interior design, development and construction. Best of all for local customers, Delta now offers its services in Shanghai through the Shanghai Hawker Pacific Service Centre, where the company has opened an interior shop providing carpet change, panel reupholstery, crew seat refurbishment and more.
U.S.-based Aeristo (Booth P414) is displaying its high-end aviation leathers, all from South German bull hides, and highlighting its leather quilting, custom perforation, embossing, splitting and skiving services.
China Aircraft Maintenance & Engineering Co. (Booth P318), China’s first maintenance, repair and overhaul specialist for small and midsize aircraft in China, and its first privately owned facility, is showcasing its full suite of refurbishment capabilities, including component design and engineering services, interior design and installation.