When ordering seats from Airtex or similar, what are you receiving?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by jimmyjack, Sep 3, 2015.

  1. jimmyjack

    jimmyjack Ejection Handle Pulled

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    A seats package for early 172's at Airtex is $1452.

    For that money, what are you receiving? The whole seat? As in, pull original seats off rails, install new seats?

    Just the cushioning and upholstery with the resulting work following on the purchaser?

    My plane is 60 years old, yet has a perfect headliner and great side panels. Carpet is serviceable. Only thing that needs to go are the seats.

    The problem is that the 50's color pattern is sea green and blue.... no current seats will ever match. IDK what to do...
     
  2. MickYoumans

    MickYoumans Cleared for Takeoff

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    You retain the metal frames from your seats. What you get from AirTex is the cushioning and leather, vinyl or cloth covering. I'm attaching a picture taken when I unboxed mine.
     

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  3. MickYoumans

    MickYoumans Cleared for Takeoff

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    My completed interior.
     

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  4. murphey

    murphey Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I took the seats & the package from AirTex to a local automotive interior shop (that also does marine and airplane interiors) and in a day or 2, I picked up the seats. They put new webbing on the bottom of the seats then the new foam & upholstery from Airtex. Only thing they didn't do (and neither of us thought of it) was blasting the old paint off the frames and new powdercoat to match.

    Remember to keep that little piece of paper (easy to throw away) which is the burn cert for the log book.
     
  5. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Yep, you get all the "soft stuff" (new foam and upholstery). Frankly, if you're not doing yourself, Airtex is less of a deal. Any decent auto upholstery shop can obtain the proper materials for doing the job and do it nicer than Airtex. The shop that did my interior had never done a plane before. They sent me a whole box of swatches that met FAA approval (Not that it was required for my old plane) and I picked out what I wanted.
     
  6. James331

    James331 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Just get a rod a custom shop to do it, you can send your own materials off for a burn cert for cheap.

    "Aviation" interiors are some of the crappiest and most expensive youll see in any vehicle.
     
  7. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    Be aware of the relevant regs when picking interior materials. Depending on the vintage of your airplane, you may not even need actual burn certs (CAR 3 airplanes do not).
     
  8. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Touchdown! Greaser!

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    this is correct.....but, many FSDOs get this wrong, mine did. :yikes::goofy:

    btw....leather and wool are "naturally" flame resistant materials. :yes:
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
  9. James331

    James331 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Why not get them, ain't that big of a deal.


    The biggest issue I think most people have is finding a good rod and custom shop, got to go to some car shows, get on the hotrod forums, etc.
     
  10. jimmyjack

    jimmyjack Ejection Handle Pulled

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    I've heard very mixed opinions on Airtex. Some love 'em, some hate 'em. Well, some are moderately happy with them and many dislike them.

    There are some VERY highly recommended upholsterers on say the 150 forum, but didn't want to fly my plane to them and get a ride back while they did the whole thing.

    80% of my interior is in GREAT shape, it's just the pilot's seat has, understandably, heavy wear. I hand stitched some patches on last night. Looks like crap, but marginally better than torn out pieces of fabric did before...

    I would tolerate a decent slip on cover if I could find one that isn't sheepskin.
     
  11. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    Find a local upholstery shop and get it done right. A word of advice. Once you have new seat upholstery the rest of your interior won't show as well. Once you re-do the interior the panel will look old and dingy. Aviation dominoes. Tip one and they just keep falling.
     
  12. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Yeah, I got into this one. I was talking to a Navion owner about to send their leather they had obtained to do their seats out for burn testing and I pointed out that was unnecessary. They went over to the FAA ACO rep (we were at Oshkosh) and they confirmed it. Car 3 only requires fire resistant materials but there is no requirement to have it certified as such.

    That being said, there are LOTS of certified materials out there.
     
  13. PeeGee

    PeeGee Pre-takeoff checklist

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    what are local shops charging for seats? I'd like to get our front two done and try to match the leather on the back seat.
     
  14. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach

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    My airtex sidewalls, door panels and seats are about 6 years old, airplane is kept in a hangar.

    They still look fine. In fact, I have one seat (upholstered at the same time) that has never been in the airplane, but in storage in the house. I confused the 6 years in service copilot seat for the one I pulled out of the closet. They both look perfect. I recognized my error because one is missing a plastic knob and the other isn't.

    I don't like the foam backing on their carpets tho.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
  15. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach

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    Just don't do what my Dad did. He recovered the seat frames changing the color without painting them. I'm going to take care of that this year....



    [​IMG]
     
  16. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    Anchorage offers a few good shop choices. I prefer Fine Line. They did the stripping and powder coating of the frames, built new cushions, and did the upholstery. The seats came back lighter than before and they're much more comfortable. Local shops are the way to go in my book. They did a great job when I built my Cub, too.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. TexasAviation

    TexasAviation Pre-takeoff checklist

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    So, as a future airplane owner, I'm curious what you guys spent on these upholstery jobs?

    Seeing $1,452 for a seats package makes me wonder why every aircraft doesn't have new upholstery! Seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the operation/maintenance costs I'm expecting someday ... although I'm sure installation tacks on plenty to that price.
     
  18. jimmyjack

    jimmyjack Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Well, those are just seats. If you want it to match, you'll need headliner, side panels and carpet. That's much, much more than $1452. And that doesn't include labor.
     
  19. ahkahn

    ahkahn Line Up and Wait

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    So upholstery is my business (well, upholstery supply, that is, as I don't do the work, just sell the materials). I rarely get going on the topic, because well, aviation is my hobby, and once I start talking business, inevitably someone thinks you're a shill and trolling the forums for business.

    Anyway, here's the skinny:

    Airtex maintains patterns and makes original-like covers for airplanes. They are a niche business that is similar to Katzkin, PUI, or Distinctive Industries in the automotive aftermarket (for those of you in the classic, hot rod, or collector car world).

    In years past, you would take your car, plane, or boat to an upholstery or trim shop to have the interior redone. That upholsterer would remove the seats, the seat covers, inspect/replace/rehab the foam cushion, then trace and pattern out the seat cover, cut and sew a replacement cover, and replace the seat cover over the foam. Voila, you have a newly-upholstered seat. The tracing/cutting/sewing can be very labor intensive.

    Usher in Airtex. They have the patterns, and have already traced/cut/sewn the seat covers. Now, you've just cut that part of the labor out of the upholsterer's equation. Airtex manufacturers these seat covers using economies of scale (bulk buys on material, established patterns, lower-skilled cutters/sewers, etc). and then can pass them along much less expensively than it would cost for an upholsterer to do the same amount of work. Now, you can have an upholsterer (or DIY) remove the old cover, pop a new one on, and you're practically done.

    Why is one better than the other? I know the materials that Airtex uses, and the materials that upholsterers and trimmers have access to, and there is a quality difference. You'll also find a workmanship difference. Why? The difference is a custom tailor vs. the mass-produced product. Airtex interiors look great. An upholsterer owns the interior and will make it look great. Their name is on it. You get much more choice in the matter when working with an upholsterer. They can do designs. They have access to many more colors. They can embroider. They are your personal artist. The difference is like using a custom paint job vs. a stock one. Airtex is higher price for the materials/lower price for the labor, and an upholsterer is higher price for the labor/lower price for the materials.

    Don't be discouraged if you get a high quote from an upholstery shop. Typically an upholstery shop will be on par with a completed Airtex interior (unless you do it yourself, of course). Certainly upholsterers are like any other mechanic... their price depends on how busy they are, how much they want the job, etc. You should get 2 or 3 different quotes and you'll see wild differences.

    When my interior goes to get done, I plan to have a good auto upholsterer do the job. I have the luxury of knowing who the good shops are, and if you'd like to PM me, I can let you know some good shops in your area, as well. My company covers the Midwest pretty decently, so if you're outside of the Midwest and Southeast, I may not have a good lead for you. But, can't hurt. You'll pay extra cash if you have an aircraft interior company do the job... because well, if it's aviation, add a few zeroes and commas... and the only thing they have is a shop on the field.

    Again, my company does not do the work ourselves, we supply trim and upholstery shops throughout the Midwest (and elsewhere). I'm happy to help out, if you have any interior questions.

    The burn cert is FAR 25.853. It runs around $75 (IIRC) to get a signed cert for each material used. We do this frequently for customers.
     
  20. N801BH

    N801BH Touchdown! Greaser! Gone West

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    Great feedback....

    Thanks sir...:thumbsup:
     
  21. ahkahn

    ahkahn Line Up and Wait

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    I've got plenty more feedback where that comes from.

    Here are some basic upholstery tips:

    - Leather IS NOT better than vinyl. It just sounds fancier. It will not hold up as long, nor wear as nicely. You're paying more for leather so that you can say you have leather. That's it. There is vinyl that looks more like leather than leather does. You'd be surprised. Leather interiors in cars are barely leather... they're mainly vinyl.

    - Most original materials are nearly impossible to find. The older, the more difficult. Anything over 10-15 years old is pretty much like finding the yeti. If you do happen to find it, you'll pay a pretty penny for it. Cloth is the hardest. Leather and Vinyl are easier, but if it's an oddball color, fugetaboutit. Black vinyl/leather is about the only one you'll be able to match without any problem.

    - An upholsterer can fix that side bolster of the seat that is worn, even though the rest of the seat is good. They can replace the single section. It will be pretty reasonable also. Under $200, probably less, I would guess. That is, of course, if they can find the matching material (or you don't mind it not matching!)

    - The best way to clean interior materials is with straight soap and water. Armor-All is taboo in the industry - it will destroy leather and vinyl. It removes the protective clearcoat on the leather and vinyl and eventually will allow the conditioners and plasticizers to migrate out... which will ultimately make the material crack. You'll never know you damaged it. Soap and water. Keep it simple. That goes for the car, too!

    I'll throw more out as I think of them.
     
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  22. MickYoumans

    MickYoumans Cleared for Takeoff

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    The situation for my interior was probably a bit different than a lot of people. I was coming up on the annual inspection that required the interior be removed for inspection of the control cables and pulleys. It just did not make sense to me to pay the labor to remove the old interior and put that old crappy interior back in afterwards. For me it was much simpler to purchase a kit for my airplane from AirTex, so I ordered new carpet, wall panels, ceiling and seats as a package deal from them. My mechanics brother did upholstery work and installed the new components for me. We also repainted all of the old window mouldings, instrument panel and replaced some of the old plastic parts in the process too. We also replaced all of the plexi-glass windows. The interior had a total make-over. Overall I am very pleased and happy with it. It looks really nice to me. You can see a picture attached to post #3 above.

    As Brian pointed out in his post above, my only disappointment is in the carpet. The quality of the carpet material seems to be on the low end. Unless you are in a situation like me where you were ordering a package deal, I would suggest looking at other options for carpet. My carpet looks reasonably nice but just seems a bit flimsy.

    In regards to what Andrew posted above, he is right about the difference between the vinyl and leather. The vinyl products today are pretty amazing. I ordered leather for my front seats and vinyl for the back seats since I figured the back seats would have so little use, plus the side panels used the vinyl material. It was amazing how close the vinyl matches the leather. I think 90% of the people looking at my interior would not know the difference unless I told them. Knowing what I know now, I would have been just as happy to have ordered the front seats as vinyl too. The leather is great and looks awesome but for what it cost in upcharges, I don't know that it is worth it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
  23. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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  24. MickYoumans

    MickYoumans Cleared for Takeoff

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    Who did your panel placards? See attached screen capture from your video. They look nice. I would love to have these in my plane.
     

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  25. ahkahn

    ahkahn Line Up and Wait

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    I could show you guys vinyls that you'd swear were genuine leather and genuine leather you'd swear was cheap vinyl. A lot has changed in the last 30 years.
     
  26. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    A local trophy shop did the placards. I made patterns that defined size, shape, text, etc and they made computer proofs for approval and then engraved in the material of my choice. I like white on black. In fact the MaxPulse placard was added late and was produced by a different shop.
     
  27. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I actually have "Ultraleather," a polyurethane product. Better fuel and abrasion resistance than real leather.
     
  28. ahkahn

    ahkahn Line Up and Wait

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    Yep, Ultraleather is excellent stuff. I distribute it, too. Most laymen call it vinyl, but rather than being a PVC "vinyl" it is a PU "vinyl". Soft as a baby's butt and just as durable as a good quality vinyl.

    Cessna has been using Ultraleather OEM for at least 10 years now. Many other companies use it, as well.
     
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  29. Dave Richards

    Dave Richards Filing Flight Plan

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  30. Dave Richards

    Dave Richards Filing Flight Plan

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    Andrew,
    Do you know of any good upholstery shops in the Columbus, Ohio area?
    Dave
     
  31. MajorTurbulence

    MajorTurbulence Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Your materials may be better, but when I looked at new Mercedes, there appeared to me a big difference between the MB-Tex and the actual leather. I was not willing to spend a lot on the car and not get actual leather. It is hard to get past that experience when contemplating materials in the plane.

    Do you know of any good shops in the Connecticut/NY area?
     
  32. Archer Jack

    Archer Jack Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I got the MB-Tex in my Mercedes and have been very happy with it. Yes the actual leather looks slightly better but I was not willing to fork over an extra couple thousand for it when the MB-Tex looked as good as it did. My dealer recommended the MB-Tex when we ordered the car. He said in the long run we would be happier with it because of its durability and not cracking in a few years. So far he has been right.:cheerswine:
     
  33. k9medic

    k9medic Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'm getting closer to pulling the trigger on a full airtex interior. I just hate their website though. It's 1995 level interfacing. A PDF order form? Seriously?
     
  34. Cricket1

    Cricket1 Pre-Flight

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    Holy thread resurrection! It appears Ahkahn hasn't been on POA since sometime in 2017...so you all might not get a recommendation for a shop....
     
  35. Brad W

    Brad W Line Up and Wait

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    side question.... what's required for a DIY install of seat covers like this? Just and A&P sign off?

    I did a cover change out in a Ford based RV (camper, not the plane) it it was surprisingly easy. I'm not saying my result was perfect, but it wasn't bad for a first shot at it....and if you're not going for an award winning interior it opens up possibilities...knowing you can buy replacement covers like that.
     
  36. Ed Gomez

    Ed Gomez Filing Flight Plan

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    Hello, how can I reach you to get material certified. Ed
     
  37. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    If you have a pilot certificate and own or operate the aircraft (and do not use it in operations requiring a commercial operator certificate), then you can replace the upholstery as it is one of the listed "preventive maintenance" items. You do need to log the work done in the aircraft records and sign that entry authorizing the aircraft being returned to service.

    Whether your material needs to be certified or not depends on your aircraft. The CAR 3 aircraft requirements are just that the material be flame resistant without any obligation to test. Most automotive products meet this requirement.

    If you have a part 23 certificated aircraft, then you need to have materials that meet the FAA burn test. First thing is to see if the manufacturer has already done that. As pointed out by Ed, testing isn't a big deal if you need to do it.

    172s up to the P model are certificated under CAR 3.