Choosing the right interior for your business jet
From choosing between leather and silk, to deciding what colour of paint you want, if you are going to spend the money on a business jet, you are going to want something that you feel comfortable in. But as much as your business jet interior is about aesthetics and taste, it can also play a huge part in determining your aircraft’s value.
Based at Teterboro Airport in New York, Sarah Mespelt works as a design coordinator for Freestream Aircraft, the first aircraft broker to build a design room. Freestream first finds an aircraft that closely matches their client’s needs. They negotiate the price with the seller and take care of the overall look and feel of the aircraft based on the client’s personal taste.
This is where Mespelt comes in. Exactly how long the process takes will depend on whether she is fitting a pre-owned aircraft with a new interior or working on a brand new completion. “We do around five a year and they usually take around six months,” Mespelt says. “That’s the minimum for a new aircraft.”
Safety, resale and operation
Across the border in Canada, Steven Lewis, founder of Interior Solutions, believes strongly in the personal touch. Guided by the mantra of “safety, resale and operation,” Lewis starts his process by receiving what is known in the industry as a ‘green aircraft’ (essentially an unpainted and empty aircraft). Affiliated with Bombardier, but still independent, he has become very familiar with fitting Global 5000 and 6000s straight out of the Bombardier factory.
After a thorough inspection of the aircraft to check that everything is in order, Lewis starts choosing the components of the aircraft’s interior based upon his own interpretation of the client’s taste and personality. “I get a feel from the customer. I have been to his house, I have been on his boat and I have got a feel for what he likes.”
Lewis is careful not to bombard his customers with too many options. He sees his methods as an alternative solution to the manufacturers who confuse their clients with books and books of similar-looking leather samples. “I have done my homework on what I think he likes,” he says.
Something which concerns both Lewis and Mespelt is the effect which that a business jet interior can have upon resale – an issue which Oliver Stone, a London aircraft broker at Colibri Aircraft, is only too aware of. Stone says that aircraft owners may struggle to sell their aircraft if they have fitted it with leopard print seats. Instead, he suggests neutral colours and softer, pastel tones.
Mespelt claims Freestream tends to stay away from the garish interiors described by Stone. “We definitely have the capability, but that’s not really our style,” she says. “We try to do something very chic and very classic.” In the instance that a client is insistent on an interior which would create problems during resale, Mespelt is comfortable with presenting the facts to her client, but says she would never attempt to discourage them.
“We would tell that we think their idea is very nice or very interesting, but that it might not be to everybody’s taste,” she says. “But some clients don’t even think about resale. It can difficult to work with, but if it’s not necessarily to my taste, I just try to think outside of the box.”
Mespelt also offers a counter-argument to Stone’s conservatism, by claiming that there are times when a more eccentrically customised aircraft can actually attract a buyer. “If you make it more unique, the next person is going to be more intrigued to buy it, rather than an aircraft that looks exactly alike.”
Keeping your opinions to yourself
As interiors are very subjective, both designers believe it is important to separate their own tastes and preferences when working on a customisation. “I will never give my opinion,” says Lewis. “If I tell a customer I don’t like something, it could insult them, and if I say I do like it, I could get the blame when it doesn’t turn out how they imagined.”
Mespelt says you need to think in very practical terms when choosing a business jet interior. “You need to consider what types of trips you will go on, what distances you will fly and how many passengers you would like to bring,” she says. “You need to decide whether you want space to sleep or if you want to have more seats.”
Likewise, it is very important to think about specific fabrics and how durable or delicate you would like them to be. “I once fitted an aircraft with suede in the toilet,” says Lewis. “A week later, the customer called me to replace the material, saying ‘It’s like a water park in here.”