Ready for a Refresh
When it’s time to make an upgrade to your aircraft, there are hundreds of details to consider. Will you update the exterior paint? The avionics? Maybe your jet’s upholstery and carpet are starting to look worn or dated. It’s important to ask the right questions – and to find the right refurbishment partner.
Jet Linx is proud to regularly partner with Duncan Aviation: in their 60-year history, Duncan Aviation has provided the highest level of service to clients looking for a trusted partner to work on an aircraft.
Founded in 1956, Duncan Aviation began when Donald Duncan bought into a Beechcraft distributorship in Omaha. Today, Donald’s grandson, Todd Duncan serves as the company’s chairman: he assumed the role in 2007 after his father, Robert Duncan, retired. The largest family owned maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in the world, Duncan Aviation provides support to business jet owners worldwide at its 30-plus locations. Duncan Aviation provides a wealth of services, from airframe maintenance and AOG service to avionics installation, interior and paint refurbishment and FBO services.
During the process of purchasing an aircraft, inspections should be performed on any aspect of the aircraft to prove its airworthiness and value. When selecting a pre-owned aircraft, the hierarchy of needs is usually clear. “Very often, the aircraft specs and equipment installed in the aircraft, such as avionics equipment or the number of flight hours on the airframe and age of the aircraft will be higher ranking factors than whether the interior of the target aircraft is ‘move-in ready,’” said Tracey Boesch, Senior Completion Service Sales.
The owner’s mission and flight profile steers the purchasing process, and while the interior condition might rank lower during the purchasing process, it’s often at the top of a client’s list to update once they take delivery. “When it is time for an aircraft to change hands, it is quite common, again no matter the age of the interior, for a new owner to choose to customize and refurbish the interior to reflect their personal tastes and style preferences,” she explained.
Aircraft owners who choose Duncan Aviation have a professional team work with them through every step of the process. Upgrading an aircraft’s interior or exterior requires precise planning and skilled experts to execute the owner’s unique vision. “It is important that aircraft interiors are user-friendly and capture the personality and an image of the customer,” said Stephanie Kuhn, Completions Designer. The team works with the owner to guide the process from the beginning – including the planning stage. “Depending on the work scope for the aircraft, I recommend starting to plan at least three months in advance,” said Suzanne Hawes, Senior Completion Sales Representative.
“Evaluating an aircraft to provide a thorough and accurate proposal is highly advised to allow for open discussion of ideas and potential solutions as well as to mitigate against surprises or changes that could delay or add cost once the project is underway,” said Boesch.
Photos can be used to start the process, but a physical inspection of the aircraft is ideal. An aircraft inspection often includes engineering and design teams, allows for a full review of the work to be done and can be completed at Duncan Aviation’s design center or on the road. “That way, we’re able to provide a more accurate quote, and the customer will be able to specify their timeframe of when they’d like to have the work completed,” Hawes explained. Larger projects often require a longer lead time, as many components are made to order – and the variety of options available is dizzying. Additionally, regulations require paperwork to be prepped in advance. “Many clients can be surprised by the rigors of the certification and compliance requirements,” Boesch said. “Engineering, documentation and approvals for work performed on an aircraft are critical from a return to service, compliance, aircraft management and asset resale perspective.”
The crew works to plan every aspect of the aircraft from a practical standpoint as well as design. “From a planning perspective, it’s important to think through the functionality and the aesthetic currently in the aircraft,” Boesch explained. “Are there upgrades available to update the look of shell panels, drink rails or cabinets, does the current galley equipment – coffeemaker, oven, etc. – suit their needs and plans, does the current floor plan maximize their planned aircraft utilization and how do they plan to work or live in the cabin when in flight.”
Duncan Aviation’s designers, like Ken Reita, work with the client to select the perfect pieces for each aircraft. “It’s my job to get to know the customer’s taste and preferences,” said Reita. “We talk about the mission, requirements for the aircraft, their goals for the project. From there, it really takes off.”
An aircraft’s interior has incredible room for customization. Inspiration for a new interior can come from anywhere. “In the last few years, we have been requested to adapt or modify interiors, taking inspiration from the architectural or hospitality industries or from new OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) aircraft. “We have also seen an increase in customers requesting to have their aircraft stylized to match a particular luxury vehicle; this includes both automobiles and boats,” Kuhn added. You don’t need to completely overhaul your aircraft’s interior to freshen the look. “Carpet, window panels and upholstery tend to see the most wear and tear, so these tend to be replaced more often,” she continued.
As with any update to your aircraft, advance planning is a necessity in order to keep the timing of the project moving. “Just about everything in the aircraft is built to order as opposed to somebody stocking it on the shelf,” Reita explained. Seat frames, table mechanisms, carpets and even galley appliances like microwaves and coffee pots all require additional time to be manufactured before installation can be completed. “Some parts, such as new tables, seats, divans, new CMS (cabin management systems) or new aviation grade appliances can take 10 to 12 weeks to receive from date of order,” Boesch said. “Custom, handmade carpets can take up to 14 weeks from date of order; however, carpet is installed at the end of a project, so it is not imperative for the carpet to be on premises at the very start of a project like the other parts that would be required to start other modifications.”
Overall, aircraft interiors today are clean and crisp, with neutrals dominating the color palette. “We’re seeing a lot of the cooler grays, warm grays, taupes – and some of the neutral creams and tans,” Reita said. The finished look is anything but monochromatic. “Some of the interiors are even a little bit edgy in nature. We’re doing a lot of contrast: for example, the focal point in the interiors really seems to be mostly the carpet and the seats, so maybe we’ll use charcoal gray carpet and then lighter seats that pop a little bit.” Textured sidewalls are popular, as are understated shapes and forms. “The sidewalls are subtle and bright, and the seat design and the carpet may have something of interest to make it more of the focal point,” Reita explained. “We’re bringing in some quilted seat inserts, some diamond patterns and we even did a hexagon pattern.” Subtly patterned carpets flow from fore to aft in the aircraft.
Floral patterns and anything that could be seen as ‘overly decorated’ are starting to look dated, as are loosely upholstered seats with gathers. “Now we’re seeing a lot more tailored designs,” Reita said. Metal inlays and trim in the aircraft is more restrained as well, with woodwork showing minimal, straight grain patterns with slight contrast, whether in a light or dark finish. “Satin finish on cabinets have also grown in popularity. A European influence with veneer applied in a horizontal grain orientation has also been in demand of late,” Boesch added.
Interior modifications can be as simple as updating the carpet, but the choices are infinite to make sure each solution fits the owner’s needs, style and budget. Carpets can be machine-made or handmade, and the options for color and pattern fill a wide range. With larger pieces, there are even more considerations. “There are so many different customizations. One example I was involved with was designing two new berthing divans. A lot of considerations were made regarding the overall look and appearance of the divans,” Kuhn recalled. “There was so much that went into something that seemed relatively simple. How the drink rail intersects the back of the divan, the style and function of the armrests, the comfort of the foam for both sitting and sleeping and even how the back cushions were stowed when divans were deployed into a bed are just a few of the additional considerations that went into that portion of the project. Every modification made is something new, and working through the process of finding the exact fit that will exceed expectations is what I enjoy the most.”
Even though the furniture is built into an airplane, modifications can include adjustments to the layout. “The floor plan is also considered, for passenger count or comfort,” Boesch noted. Elements such as new leg rests or all new chairs, or installation of dual divans to create a bed or sleeping area when both divans are fully berthed are common changes. The aircraft really does become your flying home; with a kitchen (galley), office, living area and bedroom (cabin) and bathroom (lavatory).”
exquisite exteriors & deluxe details
A plane’s exterior paint job has a host of opportunities for customization. Including brand colors or a company logo, special striping or an entirely custom design. Color trends from the plane’s interior carry through to the outside. “There’s definitely a trend where we’re seeing a lot more of the metallic overall base paint for the paint jobs, and a lot of times those cool colors again,” Reita said. “We’re seeing overall gray, metallic grays for the exterior, and then maybe some darker gray stripes or a two tone base.” Overall, the majority of the paint jobs done today at Duncan Aviation are still on a white base, and the team creates those designs with the same attention to detail as a never-before-seen color combination. “We’ve done more of the Chromalusion stripe accent paint than I’ve ever seen in previous years,” Hawes added. Chromalusion paint contains no pigment of its own, but the finished look shines in multiple colors as the aircraft moves or the viewer’s perspective changes. The multicolored appearance is created with a prism effect by refracting or blending light through a five-layer lake construction.
One of the more memorable projects to pass through Duncan Aviation’s doors was an exercise in outside-the-box-creativity, inside and out. A single design feature began on the plane’s exterior, and then carried through the interior design. “The hexagons started on the outside of the aircraft as a fill area for one of the stripes, and it was also repeated on the inserts for his cabin seats,” Reita recalled. “The exterior paint job was complementary to what was going on in the interior.” The client’s willingness to make bold, edgy design decisions for his aircraft led to a striking design – and one of Reita and Hawes’ favorite completed projects. “I felt like that was pushing the boundaries of what we would traditionally see,” Reita said. “I think that’s more of a trend, more design details that might be less neutral than in the past. I like to see people really putting their personalities into these aircraft. Of course, a corporate aircraft may be a little conservative, but the private owners are really starting to get their personalities into the design.”
The Chromalusion paint is eye-catching. “As you walk alongside of the aircraft, you could see multiple colors: everything from purples and lavenders to greens and some titanium colors, and where this all came together on the radome you would see all the hues transitioning out from the radome to the wider section of the fuselage,” Reita said. “It was a really dramatic sort of effect, and it was exactly what the owner wanted. No matter what you would park this aircraft next to, it would definitely stand out and the interior was just as innovative.”
Aircraft owners are seeking out the same technology in the sky as they have on the ground. “Wifi access has become mandatory for most corporate and personal use aircraft,” Kuhn declared. “Staying connected on the ground and in the air seems to be a priority amongst many customers.” Flying privately offers a closed environment for work to be done – with some aircraft owners choosing to take business meetings on their jets – and wifi helps get the job done. “Both the wifi and the talk and text solutions are very popular for clients,” Hawes explained. Dedicated wireless providers for aviation, like Gogo, offer packages that include wifi, and the ability to use your phone’s talk and text capabilities as you would on the ground when connected to the airplane’s wifi – while your phone is in airplane mode. “Customers want to have the same connectivity up in the air as they do walking around on the ground,” Hawes added. Clients won’t need to sift through the plethora of aviation connectivity packages on their own. “Our Avionic Sales Department works directly with the customers to find a system to meet all their needs,” Kuhn said.
Upgrading your aircraft’s onboard technology could mean a new cabin management system (CMS), widescreen monitors, or adding USB charging ports for cell phones and tablets. “Very frequently, we’ll make sure we have an outlet in every seat location for somebody to charge their phone,” Hawes said. The Honeywell Ovation and Rockwell Collins Venue are popular cabin management systems, and offer flexible, scalable installations. The aviation electronics specialists at Duncan Aviation go through a step-by-step needs assessment with each client to make sure
“Lighting also plays a large role in the feel and experience on board,” Kuhn said. “People are moving away from the harsh fluorescents and replacing them with LED lights that can be adjusted warm or cool, these can also be dimmable or you can even create colored accent lighting.” Hawes also spoke of the benefits of LED lighting over traditional fluorescents. “LED lighting is such a good product: it keeps down on the heat and maintenance, the longevity of the product, you can change the color tones and select the color you want,” she said. In special cases, like the client with the Chromalusion “hexagon jet” customer, full spectrum LED lighting is available to offer a full spectrum of color choices.
Duncan Aviation has the experience and the knowledge to complete your aircraft’s refurbishment, and the team works together seamlessly to provide the best possible final product. “A big part of my job is working with our production team and making sure that the customer expectations are being met.” Reita said. The collaboration begins, for him, during the design process. “I talk to the production team on the front end of the design process as well, because they’ve been doing this for years and I like to get their input even during the design process. Their level of expertise is so high. We have a lot of communication between design, production, sales and engineering, and it’s really that collaboration that makes it happen for the customer.”
Clients remain involved during every step of the process, through the myDuncan app. The app allows for easy communication between clients and the Duncan Aviation team. “Departments can publish change orders, whether they are just recommendations or customer driven, that then can be reviewed and easily accepted or denied,” Kuhn explained. The app proves a benefit, especially to international clients. “The project manager is able to take photos and put them into the system so the client can actually see if we need to
do a repair,” Hawes noted. “It gives our customers a lot more freedom to just pick up their phone and see what’s going on with their airplane.”
While each aircraft offers its own unique challenges to keep the Duncan Aviation team on their toes, the crew is unanimous in choosing their favorite part of the process. “I love collaborating with the team here and working with the owners to give the owners the best options we can for their mission and the aircraft, and being able to hit it out of the park for them,” Reita said with a smile. “I love the whole process, but I love the collaboration that occurs along the way: having that team approach, finding the best option for the customer. Pulling the trigger on it, and getting it at the end of the day when it all comes together. I always love delivery day.”