Refurbishing pre-owned aircrafts: the swift, stylish route to your perfect private jet

Imagine finding the perfect house. The location is exactly right, the exterior has the great lines you’re looking for and the size is ideal, but the interior’s outdated and it has some cringy Roman columns framing the front door. This is much like the journey of buying and customizing a pre-owned jet. You find a jet with excellent fundamentals – great engineering, good layout and a solid flight history but the interior is outdated and, well….its just not you. Time for an update!

Both these scenarios are about seeing potential where others might not. It’s about envisioning a transformation that turns something ordinary into your personal masterpiece. In real estate, it’s about looking past the outdated kitchen and envisioning a modern culinary haven. In aviation, it’s about seeing past the old-fashioned cabin and imagining a state-of-the-art flying experience.

To create the jet of your dreams, where do you start? The level of customization is entirely up to you. You can do as little as changing the soft furnishings, or you can gut the cabin and remodel from the structure inwards.

When you view at a house, you’re not just looking at what’s there – it’s about seeing potential and envisioning the result – and the same process applies to refurbishing a jet. The thrill lies in the transformation: taking a solid foundation and moulding it into something that not only meets your needs but also reflects your personal style and needs. Whether it’s about stripping away those gaudy columns and replacing them with a clean, modern design or revamping a jet’s interior to suit your taste, the process is deeply personal and incredibly rewarding.

Although choosing to refurbish a pre-owned jet is not just a creative endeavour; it’s a smart choice. Economically, it’s more viable than purchasing a new jet. Timewise, it’s quicker than waiting for a new build. And from an environmental standpoint, it’s about making the most of existing resources whilst incorporating reusable or recyclable materials during the transformation. However, to make the most of the opportunity, it’s wise to get expert advice before purchasing a jet. This helps ensure you’re not trapped by unforeseen limitations or compromises you don’t want to make.

Just as renovating a home requires a keen understanding of its structural and architectural limitations, refurbishing a jet demands a similar appreciation for its technical and design constraints. Here you come up against the aviation equivalent of load-bearing walls and fixed plumbing – elements that are integral to the jet’s functionality and safety.

Like a house, there are some limitations to keep in mind when you refurbish an aircraft. For example, the structural pickup points and core electrical, air conditioning and ventilation systems would remain in place. These systems may define where you can place certain amenities, like the galley, a shower in the VIP ensuite or placement of seating. The key is to work with these technical realities, not against them, turning potential obstacles into unique design features.

This is where creativity within constraints comes into play, a concept well-understood in both home renovation and jet refurbishment. For example, you might not be able to remove a structural wall in your home, but you can use it as a feature – perhaps creating a stunning fireplace or built-in shelving. Similarly, in a jet, while you can’t alter fundamental structural elements, you can innovate around them. This could mean creating custom cabinetry that integrates seamlessly with existing arrangements, or designing a layout which creatively incorporates fixed points for a truly unique space. With a good designer who understands your needs, regulatory demands and the aircraft’s requirements, the only real limitation is the size of the cabin itself.

The extent of customisation in your jet can vary as much as in home renovation. You might find a pre-owned jet that’s a near-perfect fit requiring only minor touch-ups, much like repainting walls or updating fixtures in a house. For example, interior surfaces can be refinished with architectural films  to perfectly evoke any material you might desire (similar to the materials used to wrap the exteriors of luxury cards), like luxury wood or stone finishes, but without the weight implications and performance issues – improving the fuel economy and sustainability of the jet, while being much more affordable than a complete new re-veneering of all the cabin. In other cases, you might opt for a comprehensive refurbishment, overhauling the entire interior to create something entirely new – much like a full home renovation. Transitioning from the technical limitations, the fundamental step in customizing a jet’s interior is understanding the primary purpose of your travel. This encompasses considering whether the jet will serve for mainly personal, family, or corporate travels.

For family travels, incorporating features such as a private bedroom, a guest suite designed with children in mind, or dual-purpose spaces that can transform from an entertainment room to an office, can significantly enhance the travel experience. The idea is to craft a space that is not only luxurious but also versatile, catering to the dynamic needs of passengers. The concept of multi-functional spaces is increasingly popular in jet interiors, mirroring the trend in modern home design. A space that can seamlessly transition between uses caters to diverse travel scenarios from leisure to business.

For corporate travels, considerations might include discretion and privacy for high-level executives or secure spaces for confidential meetings and documents. A large conference table seem like a useful gathering point for meetings and dining but it’s worth evaluating whether you’re likely to have 8 or more people gathered around a table at any one time. This becomes a more pressing issue when you consider that most aircraft can have a maximum of 19 seats before regulations become significantly more complicated. A conference area with smaller configurable tables offers flexibility beyond formal meetings. This approach promotes intimate discussions while retaining the option for larger gatherings when needed.

Another important decision is whether to opt for an open concept layout with functional “zones” or segregated rooms for distinct groups of passengers. Open layouts promote a sense of freedom and togetherness, while separate areas offer privacy and discretion that can be key for corporate or family travels. Recently, there’s been increased demand for onboard wellness areas with features like a steam shower, massage table, or meditation space for in-flight relaxation and rejuvenation.

Ultimately, customizing a jet requires imagination and expert advice. Like remodelling a home, you’ll need a designer’s eye to conceptualise the layout and a completion manager to navigate possibilities and limitations – in effect, using their expertise to advocate on your behalf. In addition, they’ll help further maximize your budget by selecting the most appropriate suppliers, as well as materials, and completion centres.

Opting for a pre-owned jet and customizing it to your preferences offers significant advantages in cost, time savings, and personalisation compared to purchasing new. For a fraction of the price and timeline, you can refurbish a pre-owned jet to your exact specifications versus the default layouts and finishes available when buying a new aircraft directly from the manufacturer (without incurring significant extra charges and lengthy delays). You can buy pre-owned jets with less than 10,000 hours on the clock for less than a third of the cost of a new jet – despite only having used less than 10% of the aircraft’s design lifeFor example, a brand new BBJ Max would cost about $100M+  to purchase and outfit with a waiting time from purchase to delivery of over 2 yearsHowever, a pre-owned aircraft is available the moment you buy it so, with some clever planning, you could take delivery and carry out refurbishments immediatelyPotentially, this means you could take your first flight within 6-9 months at less than half the price of new.

Embracing a pre-owned jet and tailoring it to your exact needs isn’t just a smart financial decision—it’s a fast track to luxury and personalization on your terms. This process transforms a jet with solid fundamentals into a reflection of your unique style and vision, merging efficiency with elegance. However, the main advantage lies in the speed of transformation. Refurbishing a pre-owned jet propels you into the skies much quicker than the lengthy wait for a new aircraft, all while enabling a level of refinement and customization that new purchases often lack. With expert guidance, your vision swiftly takes flight in a cabin outfitted with premium materials and bespoke designs, all within a fraction of the time and cost of buying new.