Aviation: Dream Weaver
August Henningsen, the CEO of Lufthansa Technik, remembers the 2000 Olympics well. “That was when we refitted a Boeing 747 to take 10 horses to the games,” he says. Over the years, the Hamburg company also has equipped jets with such amenities as an exercise area, a medical emergency room, and a garage for a BMW. “The owner liked to drive the car right off the plane,” Henningsen recalls.
Lufthansa Technik, which was spun off from an engineering division of Germany’s Lufthansa airline in 1994, maintains aircraft, makes plane parts, and runs one of the world’s foremost completion shops—outfits that design and install jet interiors. Such operations are needed because aircraft manufacturers typically deliver large jets “green,” or without interiors. Recently, Lufthansa Technik, working with London designer Andrew Winch, announced an ambitious design for the interior of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a wide-body jet that debuted last October and is scheduled to reach customers in the summer of 2008.
The 787 airliner will seat 210 to 330 passengers in the usual rows of seats, but Lufthansa Technik has created something much more opulent for private owners. The VIP configuration, as it is called, includes 32 seats that recline into lie-flat beds (nine are double beds), a lounge toward the front of the plane, a dining and conference room, a master stateroom, a restaurant-style galley, a movie theater, two en suite guest cabins, and as many as four bathrooms with stand-up showers. According to Henningsen, the goal is to provide “a total experience in the air—that is, anything you can get on land you can get in the sky, including live TV and high-speed Internet access.” The Dreamliner will cost about $150 million green, the interior another $30 million to $70 million or so, depending on the owner’s requests.
Henningsen says that his company has installed more than 40 interiors for Boeings, mainly for the private Boeing Business Jet but also for VIP versions of the company’s 747, 767, and 777 airliners. Lufthansa Technik has collaborated on two of these projects with Winch, a designer best known for his superyacht interiors. “With the Dreamliner, I worked to make the best possible use of the space, all 158 feet of the cabin length,” Winch says. “This plane will be a mansion in the sky.”
According to Boeing, the Dreamliner will be among the fastest large-cabin jets ever made, reaching a speed of Mach 0.85, or 646 mph. The first version of the plane, called the 787-8, will have a range of just over 11,000 miles, allowing it to fly anywhere in the world nonstop. It also will be the first large jet to use composite materials for most of its construction, making it more fuel efficient than comparably sized aircraft. Two variants with different ranges and cabin sizes, the 787-3 and 787-9, will appear in late 2008 and in 2010, respectively.
Henningsen notes that the Dreamliner interior concept, like all Lufthansa Technik designs, is highly customizable. “We once had a customer who wanted a large bronze statue of a rearing horse in his jet,” he says. “Another wanted a 1,600-pound chandelier in the conference room.”