Optimising the aircraft interior refurbishment process

A cabin interior refurbishment is both a major investment and a challenging undertaking in the life of an aircraft. This complex process will take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete, depending on a number of factors, such as the location of the aircraft, customer specification, supply of materials and level of certification required.

Proper planning is critical and should only be undertaken by an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility that understands all of the project parameters. For example, the availability of certain products, such as custom carpets and seats could impact on the schedule, plus there may be the need for additional work due to unforeseen issues, all of which needs to be factored in to the completion date. Choosing the right technical partner is therefore of prime importance in every aircraft interior project.

1. Have you understood all the options?

Aircraft cabin options are constantly evolving. New technologies can help maximize cabin space, create weight saving, replace obsolete cabin equipment and be generally more efficient and aesthetically pleasing. Examples include LED lighting and electronically dimmable windows. Within a given airframe, there are options requiring Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) that expand what is possible. However, there are also pre-approved floorplans that allow floorplan changes. In addition to seating changes, floorplan changes can add significant cost and downtime, so this should be considered very carefully.

2. Durability

If the aircraft has a high volume of flight hours, be sure to use highly durable materials when making interior selections. Using higher durability components will be more cost efficient in the long-run as the cost to refurbish an aircraft with lesser-quality materials can lead to significant longer-term expense.

For carpets, look for hand-tufted materials from trusted vendors. For soft goods, consider ink or stain resistant ultra-leathers. Woodwork could either be a high-quality laminate or a high-gloss veneer. If using veneer, however, make sure your vendor uses a climate-controlled spray booth with proper drying times to guarantee the finish. This helps eliminate long-term problems such as cracking, shrinkage and milky or cloudy finishes.

For high-traffic areas, you could also consider a vinyl carpet runner and/or additional carpets to cycle cleaning and keep your carpet in optimum condition.

3. Stowage options

Evaluating stowage requirements is a must for any aircraft interior specification project. Assess your missions in flight and prioritize your top-five requirements.

Do you need extra luggage space, a coat closet or a drink station? Do you need cabinets to house the inflight entertainment system? This list of needs can help guide your aircraft interior designers to create something that is not only stylish, but functional.

Some aircraft have STCs to allow for additional stowage but many options don’t require the extra expense of an STC. Depending on your needs, additional storage may only require a simple field approval.

4. Cabin refurbishment

Depending on the condition of your current interior and the direction of your overall design, you may not need a complete interior refurbishment.

If completing a partial interior refurbishment, it’s important to make sure that you are still going to be happy with the end-result in 5-7 years or when you decide to resell your aircraft. When making this decision, you will need to decide what components you plan on keeping and make sure your design complements the existing interior.

A partial refurbishment is a good option to consider during a maintenance event without adding downtime. When doing a partial interior refurbishment, keep in mind that the full interior will age together throughout the lifespan of your refurbishment.

If the components you choose not to refurbish are not in like-new condition, your interior can appear to age inconsistently. If not properly thought through, you may regret not taking advantage of the downtime to complete the entire aircraft interior.

5. Inflight entertainment

Since you and your passengers may spend a significant amount of time in the airplane, it’s important to consider and discuss your entertainment options in flight. Many operators consider their aircraft to be their second office. Consider what’s available to help achieve the functionality you need.

For instance, many smaller aircraft operators have abandoned items like cabin entertainment systems for high-speed WiFi. There are also products you can add onto a WiFi system like Gogo Vision, which allows for latest movie releases, news, weather and flight information.

Refurbishments for Mid-size and Large-Cabin jets are more likely to include full cabin entertainment systems. These can include multiple screens, Bluetooth options, speakers and options to control other cabin comforts like LED RGB lighting and window shades.

Finally, if you’re able to schedule your aircraft interior refurbishment with other items like routine maintenance, paint or avionics, you can save additional downtime in the long-run and avoid repositioning the airplane to complete other due items.

Get in touch with Optimum Aero to discuss your next aircraft cabin interior project.