Customers should shop around for the best deals, best customer service, and best quality of work. Sometimes when a customer has a particular need, they try to look for the specialty shop that does just that one thing instead of a shop were they execute more than one discipline. On certain products that may work, although when it comes to repainting an aircraft or getting an updated look to the interior, customers may see these people as experts since they focus solely on one discipline; the inverse, in fact, is true. Let’s take a look at some situations that would call for a one-stop shop compared to a single trade shop.
A quality paint job should last at least six years but can sometimes last longer. We recommend that customers look at paint as a maintenance event. Even if you don’t think you need new paint in six years, you should seriously consider it because paint is the first line of defense and you never know if there is corrosion underneath until you strip the paint completely. We have all heard stories about paint shops where it’s one guy and a paint gun on unfinished floors, not to mention zero controlled atmospheric conditions and absolutely no dedication to quality procedures. This example may be extreme, but there are qualities to look for in a paint shop while there are others you will want to avoid.
You want a facility that is adequately staffed to address an issue if something goes awry in the process. Items like flight controls and other critical elements to an aircraft, for example, can follow strict guidelines that may require maintenance manuals. If the shop where you take your aircraft does not have the manuals because they don’t generally deal with this type of aircraft, this could compromise the customer’s service. Paint that has been on an aircraft for years may be hiding some issues and, once you strip it, there is no going back and those issues must be dealt with.
When searching for a paint facility, look for one that will provide quality work and technicians who will pay attention to the details so that the aircraft is safe and will have a paint job that will withstand the years. Paying a little more now for a quality paint job that will last for many years, will, in the long run, save money because there wouldn’t be further downtime or paying for paint again in just a couple of years. Find a facility with a clean booth because even a speck of dusk landing in the paint can cause problems. As we stated, paint is the first line of defense and, when flying and changing altitudes, pressures and climate conditions at 500 miles an hour, the paint should hold up and not have any reason to crack.
If the aircraft is within a warranty period and the scope of work failed, understanding when and where the aircraft will be repaired along with verification of the warranty and knowing who exactly will be paying for it can be a cause of concern. Look for companies who will provide that information in the original contract. In some circumstances, a company that wants a satisfied customer who will return when work is needed will most likely make exceptions and see that the issues are resolved in a timely manner. If these paint and interior only shops do not have the adequate equipment and manpower or even the proper manuals for the specific airframe, it may potentially cost more downtime and more money out of pocket.
Quality takes time and a good facility is likely to be booked weeks in advance, which means it will be extremely difficult to take drop-ins. Planning ahead is the best option when needing quality work done.
A quality shop understands it is more than just finishing and moving on to the next project. It is about knowing the product and its limitations. For example, how a part is prepped can make all the difference. Does the panel need to hold its flexibility or can we repair it to be more rigid? Is there a certain way to seam a panel or a seat to extend the wear and longevity of the panel or seat? That is precisely what a customer should look for in a shop: some place that is going to take the time to look at each section of the interior and determine how to make it last longer to increase the value they are putting into the aircraft.
When prep work is not done properly, the materials will not wear as well as they should. If you are unsure about the origin of the work or the quality a particular shop provides, beware of an aircraft advertised with "new interior." Some shops just re-dye seats and use pre-cut carpet kits that may not fit well and show loose surging/threads, possibly unfinished edges and those solutions won’t hold up as well. It will have the new carpet and new leather smell but time will tell how long either will stand. Some shops take shortcuts; for instance when seats are re-dyed and not done properly, they can become sticky and even pull layers of dye off when conditions are right.
While refurbishing an aircraft, a quality facility should have the solutions to every detail, no matter how small. For instance, if doing partial refurbishment, will all the hardware match? Will they make sure there is a full set of throw rugs? Will the shop go above and beyond to create an excellent customer experience? Even the smallest of things will go a long way.
It may seem complicated but we have said this time and time again when doing an interior refurbishment; even a small change to an aircraft interior can affect a lot more than you think. Find a shop that focuses on the smallest of details, one that takes the time to really look at an aircraft to figure out what is best for that specific aircraft and airframe.
Having a facility that can handle any issues that arise, mechanical or otherwise is critical when repainting or refurbishing an aircraft. A shop with one trade may not be capable to handling issues that arise that aren’t in their field. Also keep in mind a facility that can do everything will have adequate "specialists" already on hand for each specific situation. Quality work that will lasts over time will pay for itself in the long run.
Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation, Adam has earned many different promotions on the shop floor including Install Team Lead, Soft Goods Team Lead, Assistant Interior Shop Manager and Seat Shop Manager. Adam’s most recent promotion has been to Paint and Interior Sales Representative for Elliott Aviation. He uses his experience with various vendors, products and processes to educate our clients by providing direction and helping plan for future investment with realistic and accurate figures.