The Gold-Plated Cabin
There aren’t many companies that can make an airliner fit for a king.
- By Roger A. Mola
- Air & Space magazine, March 2010
Courtesy Lufthansa Technik
(Page 3 of 6)
But Lufthansa was able to make one dream come true: a night sky rendered in tiny diodes, to imitate a constellation the customer had enjoyed one special evening.
Once the aviation safety requirements have been met, the craftsmen must meet a very high standard of quality. All work performed is checked, and checked again. Employees watch for the tiniest smudge on fabrics as they move from delivery dock to factory shops, and an elevator with a special speed for full loads prevents even a gentle bounce at the bottom to keep from damaging delicate furnishings.
Many of the finishes are exotic. Eikelmann holds out a patch of steel-gray skin from an ocean stingray, which an Asian customer wants on his chair.
“Bubinga wood seems to be the thing now,” says Clark Goodison, who as an amateur musician first saw the rare and costly grain on African drums. One project at Jet Aviation required a team of artists from Eastern Europe be flown in for six weeks. They hand-painted a decorative pattern on a roll of Alcantara (a suede-like material) running 45 feet along the cabin ceiling.
“The most expensive finish is gold plate, but any finish can be costly depending on how many curves,” says Eikelmann. Curved surfaces require more care to align with other layers as well as the underlying honeycomb of the furnishing and adjoining fixtures, and they take many more hours to seal and polish.
How much does it all cost?
Lufthansa Technik offers a completion for the Airbus Corporate Jet or the Boeing Business Jet, with a cabin starting at six million euros ($8.5 million). A high-end completion can add $30 million to a hull that costs $60 million empty, according to director of marketing and sales Thomas Foth.
“Of course this depends on the materials,” explains AMAC’s Ruedi Kurz. “One customer wants mother of pearl inlay on all of the cabinets. Another wanted all of the carpets to be silk, and that’s another half-million right there.”
“Smaller business jets can be completed in the lower eight-figure range,” says Wolfgang Reinert, a spokesman for Lufthansa Technik. “The bigger an aircraft is and the more individual a customer’s wishes are, the more expensive it will be.” Wide-body hulls, such as the Airbus A340 or the Boeing 747, “can reach the nine-figure range.”