Is aircraft interior refurb a feasible business?

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Peenzcat, Apr 27, 2021.

  1. Peenzcat

    Peenzcat Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi! I am new here, but am considering launching a business specializing at refurbishing aircraft interiors with new carpeting, upholstery, and veneers. I was trained by Dassault Falcon and have several years of experience in manufacturing, but have not explored the world as a contractor for hire, so I have some questions!

    1.) Is this even feasible? Is there a market for this?

    2.) What prices would one typically pay for say, leather work or even full refurbishment in a light aircraft?

    3.) Would you need any form of licensing? I was informed as long as I'm not making major structural changes an A&P is not required for this form of work.

    4.) How would be the best way to launch this? I figured I could either have them ship the parts to me, refurb them, and ship them back for their A&P to install, or I could set up a traveling business and charge for travel.
    What do you think the best route would be?

    5.) Please, ANY advice is feasible and will help greatly! I have experience doing the work and even servicing finished luxury aircraft, I just need to find how I can implement it into a business model. I would hate for my skillset to go to waste.
    Thank you!
     
  2. PeterNSteinmetz

    PeterNSteinmetz Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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  3. Peenzcat

    Peenzcat Filing Flight Plan

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    Well that definitely gives me some hope! I was looking more to start on light aircraft and build my way up from there.
     
  4. TrueCourse

    TrueCourse Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I would suggest going to work for a company that already does this so you can build experience in the field of interior refurbishment of GA aircraft. Then, after you learn the trade (the specifics to GA aircraft) and get a good reputation, branch out on your own in your corner of the world if the fire is still there to have your own business. If I had an airplane that needed a new interior the first question I’m going to ask is, “how many aircraft have you refurbished and can I see your work?”
     
  5. Peenzcat

    Peenzcat Filing Flight Plan

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    Definitely, I've been trying to find some places near me but the only sources I can locate are large corporations, which I am currently working for. I have helped refurbish several hundred and have a ton of pictures, they have just been in private jets as opposed to light aircraft. I figured I would start as a side business and phase into it, my problem comes from the business analytics. I'm not sure of the market for this kind of thing on light aircraft or even what to charge. My main experience is working on $80m aircraft, so the last thing I want to do is overcharge anyone.
     
  6. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    The money is in the $80m aircraft, not the little GA airplanes.

    There is an aircraft interiors/upholstery/carpet family business at my home airport that does mostly small GA, not the more expensive planes.
    But they do a lot of other stuff to be viable - including refurbishing camper/RV interiors, boat cushions and covers, they make and fix cockpit and wing covers, repair upholstery that's been damaged, re-color headliners and a host of other, similar, work
     
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  7. MooneyDriver78

    MooneyDriver78 En-Route

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    You’re going to need a AP certification to be able to R/R interiors. I think the shop on my field is a repair station, they do everything from small GA planes to small commuter jets.
    Then there’s the special equipment so you can sew french seams, embroidery, etc.
    My local shop has a steady stream of business, about 5 employees.
     
  8. Bell206

    Bell206 En-Route

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    Any aviation business/idea can be feasible provided you perform your due diligence of your intended market. Keep in mind to concentrate on your specific area or region vs the market in general.
    Very subjective to your location, experience, material mark up, etc. But you could send out for quotes for say a Cessna 172 to several interior shops in your region then apply those costs to your business model.
    If this will be a turn key or stand alone service then you'll need a minimum of an A&P and depending on the level of work performed possibly will need an IA. A number of the interior shops I've dealt with went higher and obtained a CRS. You can have the customer's AP handle the FAA paperwork but it may be hard to offer aviation services without your own certifications. Theres also a way for the aircraft owner to handle the required paperwork but thats outside of your current questions. And as a side, if you plan is to precut and sell kits you will need additional approvals, etc.
    Side job, hands down. My personal mx business started as a side job and actually remained a side job until I retired from the day job. This way allowed my to pursue niche areas like aircraft electrical work, owner-assisted mx, etc. as my day job paid all my everyday bills. But I had a work schedule that gave me more than weekends off.

    That said if you're a crack uphostery person may look to open a non-aviation shop if there is a large marine and vehicle market in your area. Then you can offer aircraft services on the side. People gravitate to craftsmanship in fields like this. For example, most of the small GA interior work I performed, I took all the uphostery work to the local car shop who was a master at it. Then I would sign sign off all the work. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
  9. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    This is just a response to your shipping idea.

    As an aircraft owner, I’m not really going to want to pay someone to disassemble my interior, pay to ship it to you, pay to have it shipped back, pay to have it reassembled, and not have a functional aircraft for that long.

    make it easier for me to get the whole thing done quickly and I’m interested.
     
  10. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    ^^^ this ^^^

    You can search the archives here but there’s piles of us who constantly talk about what’s legal and not about having the local automotive places re-upholster things.

    The low end of the biz is viable but really low end. We’re all essentially maintaining 1970s automotive interiors in the spam cans.

    The jet crowd wants the plane to look like this year’s interior design magazines for the prices they pay. Lots of us below that demographic just want functional.

    @GRG55 has it right above. Mixing airplane and auto biz works out great for shops that understand both. But it’s not going to pay like refurbishing a $10M jet.
     
  11. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The question is how much business you can get. The guy who does interiors that I know of, is primarily a custom car guy, but he sort of learned doing my Navion and has taken on several more airplane projects subsequently. He had no problem getting approved FAA materials (not that it was required for my CAR 3 plane) from his normal sources. He sent me a large box of samples of stuff he proposed to use to choose from.
     
  12. kmacht

    kmacht Pre-takeoff checklist

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    One other thing to think about is where you will do the work. Many of the airports around me don’t allow outside services. You need to have an agreement and insurance in place with them to operate as a business on the airport property.
     
  13. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The way the guys I dealt with work is that the mechanic lets them use his shop to do the installation. They take out most of the stuff that can come out (seats, side panels, etc...) and work back in their shop.
     
  14. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    For what it is worth, we had the Arrow's interior replaced by a guy at KJAQ. It turned a ratted out interior vintage 1972 with crumbling plastics and faux sheepskin covers hiding nearly 40 years of nastiness with modern drive off the dealership interior. Sure, there is a market for it. As stated, the 50+ seat market is lucrative from a business perspective, but literally he is the only guy we knew that did this. That tells me there is a market for GA. So, don't give up. As stated, you need to get an A&P cert but that is doable.
     
  15. Geosync

    Geosync Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This. GA is a hard way to make a living in general. I would leverage your experience and contacts on the big iron and open up shop. Start small, like older smaller jets, and aim for the used Falcon 900/1000/50 market. Then onto GIVs, Globals, etc. You may need business partners to start up so figure out what you need.

    But yes, you can start in GA. There are a few old guys out there looking to redo their 1970 Bonanza interior, or C-177 Cardinal. Good craftsman(and businessmen) can do ok. But if I were you, the goal would be the $4 million big iron jobs, not the $70k Cessna 182 job. As a means to that end? Sure. But personally, stripping a 900ex, designing and installing a fresh interior that the wife(always is) wants and they have a blank check, and they have that rare Italian fabric they want you to work with, would be where I want to operate.
     
  16. Huckster79

    Huckster79 Pattern Altitude

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    yup we’re a tough crowd...

    I love aviation, but I’m not sure I’d start a business focused solely on guys that will burn 100LL to fly 30nm out of their way to get to the cafe who’s coffee is 99cents vs $1.59...
     
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  17. Jeff Oslick

    Jeff Oslick En-Route

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    To those saying you need an A&P cert, you don't. You need to get some experience working with small GA interiors, which you could get working for an A&P/IA, but normal interior refurb work does not require an A&P, it falls under the category of preventative maintenance, provided you don't disassemble primary structure, which you shouldn't need to do. The aircraft owner can signoff preventative maintenance work. You will need to partner with an A&P for revised weight & balance numbers (mostly just weight, the balance would rarely change significantly with a refurb), and to document/perform any work that goes beyond preventative maintenance as defined in Part 43. As part of this, you need to know enough about what you're doing to not create an interference issue behind the panels (i.e., with pulleys behind panel).