Cabin Comforts

  • Bailey S. Barnard, Mary Grady & Michelle Seaton

Great emphasis is placed on an aircraft’s capabilities—its range, cruise speed, climb rate, and fuel efficiency. Once the plane leaves the ground, however, the cabin design becomes of paramount importance: If you are comfortable on board and have all the amenities you need, you will not mind spending that extra time aloft that a speedier jet would have eliminated; if the aircraft cannot accommodate your family and your luggage, its range and speed are irrelevant.

While an interior designer on an unlimited budget can give owners an unparalleled level of personalization, aircraft manufacturers offer standard and optional cabin configurations and amenities that meet the needs of most travelers. To give prospective owners and other private fliers a more comprehensive sense of the available interior spaces—one you cannot get from viewing blueprints and reading about dimensions—Robb Report has created to-scale cabin illustrations of top aircraft models. The cabins are depicted in their standard configurations and, in some cases, with available options. Each of the seven models represents a different category of aircraft—from business turboprop to ultralong-range jet—with a different level of performance. After all, accommodating as an aircraft may be, it still needs to take you to your intended destinations and do so on your schedule.

Business Turboprop Piaggio Aero P.180 Avanti II
Jimmy Bridges, a P.180 Avanti II owner living in Odessa, Texas, relies on the twin-engine turboprop to run his business, which provides technical support to oil companies. “What I like best about it is the roomy cabin,” he says. “We’re good-size guys, and it’s easy for us to get in and out.”

The aircraft’s interior measures 5 feet, 8 inches tall by 6 feet, 1 inch wide. Piaggio America CEO John Bingham says that the Avanti II, which is built in Italy and began shipping to the United States in late 2005, also stands out for the sense of serenity its interior provides its occupants. Unlike with most turboprops, the twin engines of the Avanti II face rearward—pushing the plane rather than pulling it. This configuration directs the majority of the engine noise away from the cabin.

Bingham also notes that each airplane is built to order, so buyers occasionally request a high level of interior customization. “If you want green leather and purple carpets, we will willingly do that for you,” he says. Most buyers, however, choose from a standard palette for the cabin’s color scheme—a selection of neutral tones in a variety of combinations paired with polished woods for the consoles.

The aircraft’s club seats are fully articulated, meaning that they track fore and aft, swivel 180 degrees, and recline. To increase passenger capacity, owners can substitute one or two side-facing divans for the club seats. Additional cabin furnishings include two folding tables and a selection of cabinetry. Piaggio customizes the cabin’s multimedia systems to owners’ preferences. These can include individual screens for each seat or screens at the front and rear of the cabin. Wireless Internet access is a commonly requested option. Bridges’ airplane has a pair of video screens, wireless headphones, and music features that, he says, are especially useful when children are on board.

The plane has another feature that passengers might not appreciate until hours or days after they have landed: To mitigate jet lag, the cabin maintains sea-level air pressure to an altitude of 24,000 feet.

SPECIFICATIONS Cruise speed: 463 mph Range at cruise speed: 1,634 miles Maximum cruising altitude: 39,400 feet Climb rate: 25,000 feet in 10 minutes Seating capacity: Nine passengers Baggage space: 44 cubic feet Base price: $7.195 million Contact: 561.253.0104, www.piaggioaero.com —Mary Grady

Light Cessna Citation CJ4
Top-quality fabrics and wood trim are essential to creating a comfortable business-jet interior, but the decor is secondary to the cabin’s layout. At Cessna, an in-house interior-design team works from the start on each new aircraft that the Wichita, Kan., manufacturer develops. The designers help determine the shape of the cabin, the placement of windows and air vents, the ergonomics of seats and tables, and other interior elements.

According to Mike Pierce, Cessna’s marketing product manager, presenting only computer simulations of a cabin does not ensure that it will satisfy customers. “We built several mock-ups and tested them out, bringing through hundreds of people at trade shows and at our Wichita service center,” he says. The cabin that resulted from this process is easy to navigate and includes lights and air vents in discreet but handy locations, as well as newly designed seats that were placed in a variety of configurations for the mock-up tests.

The company took all the items that tested well and made them standard for the CJ4, which began delivery in April 2010. These include the Venue Cabin Management System from Rockwell Collins, which Cessna debuted with this jet. The system integrates such standard multimedia features as a 100-gigabyte hard drive that stores music and movie files. Optional features include as many as eight 10.8-inch high-definition video screens, plus MP3 docking stations and XM radio, which passengers can control from their seats. They can also govern the lights, window shades, and the cabin’s two-zone heating and cooling system. Passenger seats can slide backward, forward, and sideways (swiveling is optional). Each seat also fully reclines, and the aisle armrests can be completely stowed.

The CJ4’s cabin is almost 2 feet longer than that of its predecessor, the CJ3, and the newer model also offers passengers slightly more headroom and width. The CJ4 can accommodate as many as nine passengers if the optional two-seat divan is installed.

SPECIFICATIONS Cruise speed: 521 mph Range at cruise speed: 2,304 miles Maximum cruising altitude: 45,000 feet Climb rate: 37,000 feet in 14 minutes Seating capacity: Nine passengers Baggage space: 77 cubic feet Base price: $8.895 million Contact: 316.517.6056, www.cessna.com —M.G.

Light Midsize Embraer Phenom 300
Simplicity and functionality was the mantra for the designers of the Phenom 300’s cabin. The product-planning team for the Phenom 300 was not looking for opulence. Instead, they wanted the cabin to be simple, seamless, serene, and refined.

Embraer, which designed the Phenom 300 in partnership with BMW Group DesignworksUSA, followed this principle all the way down to the electrical plugs. They are abundant, conveniently placed, and out of sight.

The ergonomics experts at DesignworksUSA offset the passenger-seat headrests slightly for extra comfort and support. The Phenom 300 also features Embraer’s signature windows, which are larger and set higher in the fuselage than those of most private jets, to provide an optimal viewing angle and allow the maximum amount of light into the cabin. Embraer outfits the Phenom 300’s cabin with an abundance of soft leather and offers wood veneer and a hardwood floor as options.

The oval shape of the interior provides more head and shoulder room than one would expect from a jet in the light midsize class (the cabin is 4 feet, 11 inches tall and 5 feet, 1 inch wide). And the cabin is pressurized so that even at 45,000 feet, passengers will never feel as though they are at an altitude greater than 6,600 feet.

The cabin offers control over the temperature, light settings, and in-flight entertainment in the seating area. Each seat is equipped with a 7-inch monitor for viewing digital media, as well as a panel for controlling reading lights.

The cabin’s entertainment system also includes wireless headsets and a larger 10.4-inch screen that folds down from the cabin’s ceiling for in-flight movies.

The generous galley, available in multiple laminates or wood veneers, has room for both an ice drawer and a microwave, or it can be swapped out for a smaller version and an extra seat. A new configuration, available starting next year, offers a side-facing divan able to accommodate two passengers for takeoff and landing.

SPECIFICATIONS Cruise speed 521 mph Range at cruise speed: 2,268 miles Maximum cruising altitude: 45,000 feet Climb rate: 37,000 feet in 14 minutes Seating capacity: Nine passengers Baggage space: 76 cubic feet Base price: $8.5 million Contact: www.embraerexecutivejets.com —M.G.

Midsize Hawker 900XP
The cabin of the Hawker 900XP is a full 6 feet wide and 5 feet, 9 inches tall. In addition to its accommodating dimensions, the cabin has large windows, low-level mood lighting, and touchscreen controls at every seat to help keep as many as nine passengers comfortable, even during cross-country flights. “All of these unique little nuances, plus the rich, luxurious fit and finish, have a real impact on how you feel about the space,” says Vince Restivo, Hawker Beechcraft’s vice president of aircraft completions and interior design. He notes that the 900XP’s wide cross section and big, comfortable seats make the midsize jet—which Hawker Beechcraft introduced in 2007 as an upgrade to its 850XP—feel like a much larger aircraft.

Restivo and his team work with each owner to customize the aircraft’s interior, offering a wide range of choices for carpeting, upholstery, and wood finishes. “We feel the interior design is an extension of each owner’s personality,” he says. “Buyers of the 900XP get to choose from all the same options available for the larger Hawker 4000.”

The standard configuration for the 900XP features five club seats and a three-person divan. It also includes foldaway tables and a galley equipped with a microwave, a coffeemaker, and cold storage. The standard multimedia system includes a bulkhead monitor placed forward, with a second monitor located aft as an option. Hawker Beechcraft also offers satellite phones and high-speed data links for those who want online access aloft.

A popular option for the 900XP is the Rockwell Collins Airshow system, which displays the aircraft’s real-time location on a digital map. Other cabin amenities include two closets with coat rods and room for plenty of baggage, and a pair of cupholders at each seat.

SPECIFICATIONS Cruise speed: 535 mph Range at cruise speed: 2,756 miles Maximum cruising altitude: 41,000 feet Climb rate: 37,000 feet in 17 minutes Seating capacity: Nine passengers Baggage space: 50 cubic feet Base price: $16.024 million Contact: 316.676.0800, www.hawkerbeechcraft.com —M.G.

Super Midsize Bombardier Challenger 300
Bombardier offers two configurations for the 16.5-foot-long passenger cabin of the Challenger 300, an aircraft that the Canadian company first brought into service in 2004 as part of its Flexjet fractional-ownership fleet. The double-club seating layout includes four pairs of seats, with the seats in each grouping facing each other over a small table. The seats are fully adjustable and have their own AC power outlets, and most of the tables fold up.

In the alternate floor plan, one of the seat pairings is replaced with a divan that seats three, increasing the aircraft’s passenger capacity to nine. On longer flights (the Challenger 300 has sufficient range to fly eight travelers coast to coast), with fewer passengers, the divan can be used as a sleeping berth. The cabin is 7.2 feet wide at its widest point and 6.1 feet tall, allowing most people to walk the aisle without stooping.

During flights, passengers can access a baggage area in the far aft of the cabin through the lavatory. Between the cockpit and the passenger seating area is a galley where the flight crew can prepare light fare. Two-zone air-conditioning enables passengers and pilots to set the system at different temperatures.

The cabin is equipped with Networked Integrated Cabin Equipment, an Ethernet-based system developed by Lufthansa Technik that places a small touchscreen at each seat so passengers can control functions such as lighting. The larger touchscreen at the VIP seat offers control of cabin temperature and entertainment features, which include an audio system with speakers that are fully integrated into the cabin sidewalls. The cabin also has a pair of 20-inch wall-mounted video monitors.

SPECIFICATIONS Cruise speed: 527 mph Range at cruise speed: 3,527 miles Maximum cruising altitude: 45,000 feet Climb rate: 37,000 feet in 14 minutes Seating capacity: Nine passengers Baggage space: 106 cubic feet Base Price: $24.75 million Contact: 514.861.9481, businessaircraft.bombardier.com —Michelle Seaton

Large Dassault Falcon 900LX
Dassault offers three cabin configurations for the Falcon 900LX, a model the French manufacturer began delivering last year as the faster and more fuel-efficient successor to the 900EX, which has been in service since 1996.

The cabin’s passenger space is 25 feet long, nearly 8 feet wide, and just over 6 feet tall. It can accommodate 12 travelers in a layout that includes a forward double-club (four-seat) group, a four-seat dining group, a three-place divan, and a single executive seat. The 13-passenger floor plan replaces the executive seat with an aft single-club (two-seat) arrangement. To accommodate 14 passengers, Dassault installs a second three-place divan in place of the executive seat or the single-club grouping. All three configurations include a credenza that provides in-cabin storage space, to go along with the luggage compartment’s 127 cubic feet of storage space.

Dassault offers owners a wide selection of leathers and wood veneers for the seats and trim, and a range of granite, marble, and Polystone for the countertops. Carpeting and fabric are available in nearly every color. Whatever its configuration or decor, the cabin is filled with natural light from its two dozen windows.

The galley is sufficiently equipped to pre­pare multiple meals, which can be necessary, considering that the 900LX is capable of flying nearly 5,500 miles nonstop—far enough to take passengers from New York to São Paulo or Geneva to Chicago.

Such range also necessitates an extensive multimedia system, and the 900LX has one. Its standard features include a 3-D world map that shows the jet’s current position, a pair of Blu-ray Disc players, iPod-interface and video-on-demand capabilities, and high-fidelity speakers. Optional multimedia features include Wi-Fi Internet access, satellite TV (when flying over certain countries), and satellite radio (when flying over the United States).

SPECIFICATIONS Cruise speed: 555 mph Range at cruise speed: 5,466 miles Maximum cruising altitude: 51,000 feet Climb rate: 37,000 feet in 18 minutes Seating capacity: 14 passengers Baggage space: 127 cubic feet Base price: $42.4 million Contact: 201.440.6700, www.dassaultfalcon.com —M.S.

Ultralong-range Gulfstream G550
The G550 has one of the largest cabins of any ultralong-range aircraft on the market. Designers can work with an area that spans nearly 44 feet in length. The cabin is also 7 feet, 4 inches wide, and more than 6 feet tall. All of this space enables Gulfstream to offer six different standard cabin configurations, each of which can include a crew rest area. Owners who routinely fly long-haul missions will want to add that feature, located near the cockpit, so that a third pilot can be ready to take over.

On long flights, bathrooms become paramount; with the G550, owners have the choice of putting theirs near the front or in the back, or they can have one at each end of the cabin. Owners who want privacy can select a layout that includes an executive rest area with a work zone and space to sleep. Owners often include a sofa that can double as a sleeping area and a four-seat club configuration near the galley that can serve as both a workstation and a dining area.

Gulfstream offers a wide variety of woods, wood veneers, leather, and metal finishes so that each owner can create a look that is personalized—to a degree. “Unlike other manufacturers, we do all our own interior work,” says Jeff Miller, vice president of communications at Gulfstream. “What that allows us to do is to have standard hardware and drawings and materials so that if we need to repair something or refurbish it, it’s easier to do.” Those standard designs also protect the owner from creating an interior that is so unusual it hurts the aircraft’s resale value.

Long international flights make communications and entertainment systems a necessity. The standard communications package includes a fax machine, printer, wireless local area network, and satellite communications system. In addition, owners can upgrade to Gulfstream’s Broad Band Multi-Link system, which triangulates different satellite and ground-based communications systems to provide ultrahigh-speed data and access to the Internet even when over the ocean.

SPECIFICATIONS Cruise speed: 527 mph Range at cruise speed: 7,768 miles Maximum cruising altitude: 51,000 feet Climb rate: 41,000 feet in 20 minutes Seating capacity: 18 passengers Baggage space: 226 cubic feet Base price: $59.8 million Contact: 912.965.3000, www.gulfstream.com —M.S.

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