An Eye for Detail

Gulfstream refurbishment teams create bold new designs and bring cockpits and cabins into the future
refurbishment, ownership, cabin, design, product support
Written By Lesley Conn
Photography By Kathy Almand

The detailing was no bigger than a thumbprint, but it gave one Gulfstream IV customer a one-of-a-kind keepsake.

As he walked through his newly refurbished jet, the customer was surrounded by gleaming cabinets buffed to glassy smoothness. Another change: a table that converted into a felt-topped gaming board, and with it, poker chips. At the center of each, no larger than a nickel, was the logo for Virtucon, the fictional conglomerate owned by Dr. Evil, the nemesis in the Austin Powers movies.

The Gulfstream Refurbishment team, knowing the customer was a huge fan of the spy spoofs, had the chips specially made.

For most people, a comical poker chip might not rank as a cabin essential, but it demonstrates the level of detail Gulfstream Product Support Refurbishment teams provide when they equip jets with the latest advancements, whether computer-aided pilot navigation, touch-screen cabin management or an interior that helps owners create a signature style.

“The Gulfstream product line is the industry leader and so is our product support,” says Matthew Duntz, director of sales for Interior Refurbishment, Design and Avionics. “We try our hardest to stay one step ahead of the curve. This career is something each us has chosen because we get to share our passion about what we do. And when a refurbishment is complete, we’ve helped create an aircraft that is good as new.”

More than 2,100 Gulfstream aircraft, whether out-of-production models such as the GIV or current production, are part of the fleet that Refurbishment can serve from one of five shops based in Savannah, Georgia; Brunswick, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; Long Beach, California; and Appleton, Wisconsin.

“Each center provides meticulous service befitting Gulfstream’s reputation for excellence,” says Mike West, vice president of Product Support Sales and New Business Development. “Our refurbishment teams and designers work closely with owners to give them a uniquely designed and beautifully appointed cabin that captures the essence of what’s important to that individual or company, whether business productivity, exquisite taste or even memories of a favorite place or passion.”

DETAILED DESIGN

Owners often want cabins to match a home or even a boat interior, but designers also have helped achieve the extraordinary. For one client, they reproduced images from a favorite story using fiber-optic lighting along the headliner. Another client, a devotee of antique trains, asked for and got a cabin that recreated a vintage passenger car.

Designers are constantly improving their approaches and the technology at their disposal. Lauren Skidmore, design manager in Dallas, implemented an in-house quarterly competition among designers to fuel their creativity.

Developing new concepts is easier thanks to the Real-Time Technology (RTT) scanner, which captures a pattern off thousands of fabric or carpet samples in the design centers and displays it on a computerized cabin rendering.

“When customers have a difficult time visualizing how a new interior will look, RTT puts it all together for them,” says Samantha Boyce, a senior designer in Savannah. “They can make a decision in the first meeting rather than the fifth or sixth.”

LED lighting, leather floor tiles and even 100 percent silk carpet are some of the newer choices. Boyce sighs a little as she describes the silk carpet.

“It’s dreamy,” she says. “It’s like butter to your feet.”

Once the concept comes together, the physical refurbishment begins.

“It’s dreamy,” she says. “It’s like butter to your feet.”

Some aircraft receive the works—new exterior paint, electronic upgrades and a complete interior redo. Others may need only the latest generation of cockpit navigation.

Inside the Savannah upholstery shop, the metal skeletons of three seats line one wall. The leather has been peeled away, the foam lifted free, exposing controls that will be tested to ensure proper performance.

Upholstery technicians will shape and fit new foam; then they will cut and stitch and wrap new leather over the frames. It’s an exacting process that can take hours of craftsmanship.

In the adjoining cabinet workshop, a similar process unfolds.

Every cabinet, every table, every wood-grained surface is removed. New veneers will be sanded and polished 15 times. The last sanding uses 3,000-grit paper, which feels almost as soft as leather.

“Every nut, bolt and screw has to be removed, rebuilt and reattached,” Duntz explains. “Even the smallest jobs matter in an aircraft, so we treat each task, regardless of how small, with a level of care and diligence that it demands.”

That kind of devotion creates a bond between the craftsmen and the customers, says Tom Krahn, a senior manager at Gulfstream’s Appleton site.

“We have a lot of customers who come here to work with technicians they’ve come to know and trust. We have people with 35, 40 years of experience,” Krahn says. “Our people take a lot of pride in their work, and the owners want that expertise and that attention to quality working on their aircraft.”



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