Specialist aircraft interior design business
19 September 2008
Air New Zealand launches specialist aircraft interior design business
Air New Zealand has created a standalone company with 50 staff to capture opportunities in the global aircraft interior design business.
Altitude Aerospace Interiors uses leading-edge computer technology to design some of the most innovative and plush aircraft interiors in the world, and will be staffed by Air New Zealanders with significant expertise in the design and installation of interiors for commercial aircraft and Boeing business jets.
Altitude General Manager Michael Pervan says the Auckland and Christchurch-based engineering consulting business, which began operations as a wholly-owned subsidiary on 25 August, has quietly built up its design expertise and client base and is now working with some of the biggest commercial airlines and manufacturers in the world.
Mr Pervan says Altitude specialises in three main product lines – reconfiguring and integrating interiors on commercial jet aircraft, designing customised interior product for commercial aircraft, and designing product and interiors for Boeing business and private jets.
Altitude has a handful of global competitors, but is the only significant player in Asia Pacific, one of the fastest-growing aviation regions in the world.
“Over the next five years we expect to double our staff numbers and significantly increase our revenue as we further grow our business to meet increasing demand,” he says.
Mr Pervan says the company is driven by research and development while providing a complete, end-to-end solution for its customers.
It will project manage the design, certification process, manufacture of products and product installation, often in partnership with Air New Zealand Technical Operations and Air New Zealand subsidiary SafeAir.
Many of the customised products that are designed by Altitude staff are one-off, and can take up to 20,000 hours to develop and test.
Products range from partitions, closets, equipment stowage and crew rests to in-flight bar units and luxury furniture such as sofas and cabinets.
“Our design engineers use highly sophisticated computer-aided design and analysis to develop models and test design concepts. This allows for quicker development, lighter structures, and more complex shapes,” says Mr Pervan. “The first item we actually build goes onto the aircraft.”
Altitude provides services for Airbus A320s and all Boeing jets but is particularly targeting the new generation 737, 777 and 787 aircraft types.
Mr Pervan says the company is anticipating strong growth in demand as the successful airlines increase their efforts to differentiate themselves through their aircraft interiors.
Recent Altitude innovations include a sleek sofa that multi-tasks as an office, storage facility and bed for a VIP client; a sophisticated bar unit for V Australia which features curved, embossed walls, sliding stools, a domed ceiling with star light feature and mood lighting and a bar top which houses a selection of alcohol; and a lie- flat crew rest for an Asian-based airline.
Mr Pervan says the design and fit out of business and private jet interiors is an exciting area of growth for the business, as clients seek a unique look and feel that incorporates their favourite fittings – everything from hand-tufted wool to the finest leather, or a favourite artwork.
In a further development to complement its strengths in design engineering for VIP aircraft, Altitude will open a dedicated Boeing Business Jet refurbishment centre in Christchurch with Air New Zealand Technical Operations at the end of 2008.
The facility will provide end-to-end refurbishment and completion services for Boeing Business Jets utilising dedicated interiors specialists and technicians. Altitude will also combine its expertise in industrial design and integration engineering with a supply chain that leverages New Zealand’s high end interior products.
Acting as project manager, Altitude works closely with a network of New Zealand and overseas suppliers who fulfil specialist roles during the design and refit process, providing further spill-over benefits to the New Zealand economy.
“The New Zealand luxury super yacht industry, for example, provides a good source for customised component products and high quality furniture finishers.”
Mr Pervan says that while elements of aircraft interior design have been incorporated within Air New Zealand Technical Operations for more than 60 years, its potential as a stand-alone company became apparent with the interior refit of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 747 and fit out of the 777 aircraft in 2005.
Air New Zealand design engineers took on the challenge of designing and building from scratch new stowage and bar units while also integrating the new business class seats and full in-flight entertainment systems for the aircraft, after Air New Zealand was told by overseas suppliers that its timetable would be impossible to meet.
The team delivered on time and below budget, with product that is now being recognised as amongst the lightest and most innovative in the world.
“That gave us the confidence, scale and competency to consider creating a separate business that is completely focussed on aircraft interior design, supporting Air New Zealand’s continual drive to provide world class interior products such as the latest in-flight entertainment systems and interior upgrades for the A320 and Boeing 767 fleets, at the same time further diversifying Air New Zealand’s revenue streams.”
Mr Pervan says one of Altitude’s key success factors is its can-do attitude matched with a highly analytical approach, which allows it to be fast, flexible and nimble.
Given the sustained high cost of jet fuel, aircraft weight and environmental concerns, Altitude is also extremely focused on developing interior products that are light-weight, innovative, have flexible functionality and, increasingly, make use of environmentally sustainable materials.
“Innovation is our key differentiator and we will continue to push the boundaries in the development of customised product for commercial and private aircraft,” says Mr Pervan.