Insider’s Guide to Managing an Aircraft Refurb Project

Refurb251The longer you’re involved with the business aircraft industry the easier it is to see that it’s like a giant pendulum – new aircraft sales go up and refurbs go down. New aircraft sales go down, as they are today, and the business of refurbishing older aircraft gets a boost.

In fact, the folks at recently put out a study that says that the aircraft refurbishing and repurposing market will grow from “$3.04 billion in 2012 to over $4.2 billion by 2017.” While not all of that gain will be in cabin refurbs on corporate and VIP aircraft, that segment will no doubt account for a good portion of it.

Talking to some leading refurb MROs that all stressed that between the combination of increased activity and the pressures of a combination of increased competition and tight schedules, there are traps out there it’s not all good news.

If all the customer really wants is a good cleaning and a scuff-and-buff on the woodwork, well, that’s a far cry from a complete start-from-scratch cockpit or cabin refurb.

And one of the biggest areas of concern is entering into a new project without a clear vision of what the customer is really trying to accomplish.

“A lot of times they (customers) don’t have a really good idea of what actually what can be done in their airplane,” explained Aaron Kreissler, sales director for Jet Aviation, St. Louis. “That’s why it’s important to get engineering involved with the sales department early on. Customers need to get involved with the shop’s technical people up front.”

Kreissler said that the goal is to not only understand what can, and more importantly, cannot be done in the airplane but to also to create pretty firm package which can be submitted to all the shops the customer wants to bid on the project.

“Everyone needs to be working from the same plan to create their proposals,” he said. “It all needs to be apples-to-apples to give the customer a good point of comparison.”

So what kinds of information should be in this plan you ask? “The first thing we want to know the work scope. Is it just a cockpit or cabin, or does it include things like paintwork? Do you want to change the leather on the seats? Do you want to install a new CMS (cabin management system)?” stated George Bajo, completions sales representative, Duncan Aviation. “Usually when you ask the customer these questions it leads to other information on other parts of the project.”

Another very important piece of “other information” is whether there is any major airframe maintenance or inspections coming due on the aircraft in the next 12- to 18-months. “It’s always a very good idea to couple that type of maintenance with the interior refurb,” he said. “That kind of work requires removing the interior so it’s just best to do it all at the same time. It will save money and time and eliminate any possibility of damaging the new interior.”


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