Jet Set Style

Designing for the private jet market is an interesting and complex mix of transportation design and interior design. The architectural space is inherently tubular and its functionality as a piece of transportation requires the designer to approach the interior in a completely different way to designing other commercial projects.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  October 1, 2006

|~|Jey-body1.gif|~||~|Designing for the private jet market is an interesting and complex mix of transportation design and interior design. The architectural space is inherently tubular and its functionality as a piece of transportation requires the designer to approach the interior in a completely different way to designing other commercial projects. While issues of safety are uppermost in the designer’s mind, the same intrinsic concerns at creating innovative, aesthetically-pleasing environments still exist. Evidence that high design has entered an arena once dominated solely by functionality lies in the recent announcement that bespoke fashion house, Versace, has united with TAG Group, parent company of TAG Aviation, to offer an exclusive interior design service to the owners of private aircrafts.

Reiner Heim, director of Reiner Heim says: “The trend is to create modern, comfortable and international interiors with a high level of elegance and lifestyle. The use of high-end technology for the cabin systems and high quality materials for the outfitting are constantly being demanded.” That’s not to say that minimalism and daring materials and colours are consistently being ordered. The background and nationality of the client dictates the style, as does the intended usage.

||**|||~|jet-body2.gif|~||~|Gary Doy, director at UK-based transportation designers, Design Q says: “We have worked on both traditional and contemporary interiors over the past few years. With some customers we have defined some very ornate and lavish details with expensive materials like gold and precious stones. Other customers have opted for a more contemporary look reflecting the current trends in contemporary interior design and furniture.”

Caron Gledhill, Elite Jets, agrees: “There are often regional considerations. In this Middle Eastern region, if the plane is solely to be used by one family then they may opt for highly personalised gold and flamboyant interiors, but if the plane is to be chartered, then it needs to appeal to a much wider audience.” She continues, “it is like decorating a new house, we show the clients colour charts, choice of woods, leather, panelling, inlays, metal accents (eg. latches and door handles) and accessories.” Doy adds that: “The selection of materials and surface finishes needs to take the smaller space into account and the customer starts to reference the interior a little closer to a luxury car. The fit, finish, and craftsmanship, is now under more scrutiny at close range and we design the interior surfaces to reflect automotive best practice by using more complex forms and panel offsets.”

Spatial limitations mean clever designing is a must. Doy continues: “We use visual tricks to make the interior appear larger than it really is and sometimes to disguise the tubular nature and proportions of the space. As the separate spaces are usually fairly confined and close together we tend to make sure there is a consistent design philosophy running through the aircraft so the customer feels comfortable moving between spaces and the interior does not look disjointed.”
||**|||~|jet-body3.gif|~||~|Jan Nieberle, design engineer for Lufthansa Technik has state cabins, corporate jets and private planes in his portfolio and he agrees that space is a major challenge: “We are restricted into one direction with the cabin tube, which is different to a house or a yacht, where you can go up and down, left and right as far as you like. So the major focus lies in designing a living experience in the tube that makes you feel good and free. Sky View Projection Windows add a new view dimension to the tube to give you more space.”

Mike Turner, senior manager, public relations, Raytheon, says that using the plane as an extension of the office is also a key requirement for modern day executives. “The current trend has mostly to do with the ability to duplicate the customer’s office in the airplane with all of the connectivity and entertainment options they require. These include high speed internet, phone, cabin displays, etc.”

Helle Brodsgaard, marketing manager, ExecuJet agrees: “There is definitely a trend towards ergonomically designed functional interiors that offer the utmost in comfort as well as the high tech features an executive has at his finger tips in his office on the ground.” For example, the Learjet 60 XR business jet’s newly styled interior builds upon a stand-up cabin already well known for its superior comfort, wide aisle and generous seated head and shoulder room. Passenger space for up to nine is enhanced with redesigned seats that improve legroom, while a larger galley and vanity cabinet offer optimised work areas and additional storage space.
||**|||~|Jet-body-4.gif|~||~|For larger business jets, there is a recent trend towards creating one-of-a-kind interior designs. The Bombardier series, for example, features ten unique aircraft interiors inspired by the world’s most intriguing destinations. The first 10 cities were Manhattan, Chicago, Montreal, Stockholm, Belize, Cannes, Cape Town, Venezia, Rio and Casablanca.

Colours, fabrics, textures and the overall design embody distinctive characteristics from each feature city. Cultural identity, famous landmarks, climate, historical relevance and modern architecture are just some of the references the designers use to create these original interiors and ensure they remain as distinctive from one another as the cities they reflect.

The client base for corporate aircraft is getting younger and there is an increasing demand for contemporary design. In terms of décor, or current trends, Nieberle asserts that the interior designs are moving towards monochromatic schemes: “The trend is contemporary design in black and white and open plan designs. Most important is the idea that design was yesterday, experience is what it is all about now. A good environment speaks to all the human senses which makes it more sophisticated.”
||**|||~|jet-body-5.gif|~||~|Safety

Weight and space restrictions combined with civil aviation FAA/ EASA safety regulations mean that a strict set of guidelines must be adhered to when designing. Evelyne Gordon, PR manager, Jet Aviation says: “We put safety above all other factors when designing an aircraft interior, but we also need to consider practical things such as accessibility for maintenance work, evacuation requirements, smoke emission, use of special non-flammable and light-weight materials (so-called “honeycomb” material) and the crash behaviour of materials and assemblies.”

Brodsgaard, ExecuJet, explains how business jet interiors are built using high-tech lightweight materials such as carbon and special composites. Wood surfaces, with the exception of mouldings are comprised of 1.2 mm thick panels applied honeycomb surfaces. All fabrics, leathers and carpets used in the interior of the aircraft are treated with special flame retardants such as salt bath or latex backing. In addition, special flame resistant foam is used in the upholstery of the seats, divans and various panels.

||**|||~|Jet-body-6.gif|~||~|Another factor in interior design is passenger safety, where the interior should not cause danger to passengers during normal flight and in the case of emergency. Brodsgaard says. “All interior components must meet either a 16 G (which is 16 times the earth’s gravity force) dynamic test requirement or 9 G, depending on the aircraft type, where parts need to hold together without breaking away from the main airframe.”

Doy explains: “As the aircraft structure dimensionally changes in flight we have to consider how to account for this with the interior panels so no gaps are seen. Even if certain items, like standard lamps, are designed to look freestanding they must be securely bolted in place to avoid movement during take off and landing or in flight. There is a great deal of technical equipment that needs to be integrated in the interior and we have to design furniture to accommodate this as well as providing storage.”

Turner, Raytheon, says: “Civil aviation guidelines provide for very specific requirements on the materials that can be used. Even items such as DVD and entertainment systems must be certified for aircrafts. You can’t just go down to the local electronics store and purchase a CD player for installation.” Certification testing is very expensive and time consuming. The designer and client must consider this important aspect when discussing original designs or customisation.
||**|||~|Jet-body7.gif|~||~|Case Study

Design Q united with Lufthansa Technik to design a VIP interior for an Airbus A319 reflecting the distinctive personality and taste of the client; a ‘power’ couple, both in their thirties with a youthful and stylish outlook but very family-conscious, whose security, privacy and comfort had caused them to reassess the way they travelled as a family.

Design Q used a Personality Map to identify the client’s requirements and as the designs evolved a more detailed LOPA was defined allowing the team to evaluate the architectural layout in more detail. The entrance leads into the open-plan living area with lounger-style seating offering different configurations for use, based on the Barcelona Chair’s iconic simplistic lines. Opposite a huge projection screen takes up one side of the cabin wall. On the left of the entrance is a bar, while a central island holding drinks, glasses and communications technology reaches from floor to ceiling. Panels on the upper cabin walls house the ambient lighting which can be controlled using the LHT latest cabin environment technology, but which also hold interchangeable floating panels where artwork can be displayed; a customisation which would allow easy updates when required.

The only isolated area of the aircraft is the unique ‘snug’ with cushioned walls and another large projection system, offering games, films, TV and internet access. This space also provides sleeping quarters. Opposite the snug sit three Barcelona chairs providing separate meeting space for more formal activities. Any client of this financial worth and importance would accrue an entourage of some sort, requiring TTL seating, dining and work space with the possibility of sleeping on long or overnight flights. Therefore, Design Q proposed a more unique and social environment far better than the standard TTL seats usually adopted in this area of a VIP aircraft. The timeframe from initial project briefing to the presentation of 3D visuals was under 7 weeks.
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