Nate Klenke, Sales Manager for Modifications and Design for Duncan Aviation to discusses paint and interior design services and refurbishment, and Duncan Aviation’s capabilities within that arena. The areas covered include:
As the Sales Manager of Modifications and Design, Nate Klenke has been serving Duncan Aviation customers since 1996. With a degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, he has more than 30 years of design, sales and management experience in aviation, industrial design and architecture.
Throughout his career, Nate has provided valuable leadership influencing positive change in the roles he has filled within the company, industry and community. His strong leadership and relationships with clients, vendors and industry peers, provide him with a wealth of knowledge in aviation completions and modifications, which he enjoys sharing with whomever will listen.
Duncan Aviation, Inc. is a family owned, independent business aircraft service provider. Its services include airframe and engine maintenance and repair, flight deck upgrades, avionics installations, paint and interior refurbishment, components overhaul and repair, and parts support. The company also provides pre-owned aircraft acquisition and consignment services, aviation fuel sales, engineering and certification support, and interior/paint design services. Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, Duncan Aviation operates three full-service facilities (Battle Creek, Michigan; Lincoln, Nebraska; Provo, Utah).
The company also has 27 Satellite avionics facilities located throughout the United States at the busiest corporate aviation airports, and 14 engine and airframe Rapid Response launch offices near airports that are major airline hubs. Duncan Aviation employs roughly 2,300 team members worldwide, provides some kind of service to thousands of business aircraft every year, and over the last 36 months has conducted transactions with 92% of the Fortune 100 companies that own aircraft.
Tony Kioussis (00:33):
Welcome to another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle, I am Tony Kioussis, president of Asset Insight, and your host. Duncan Aviation is an independent business aircraft services provider with an extensive and impressive range of capabilities that include airframe and engine maintenance and repair, flight deck upgrades, avionics installations, component overhaul and repair, parts support, pre-owned aircraft acquisitions and sales, aviation fuel sales, engineering and certification support.
Tony Kioussis (01:08):
I’m joined by the company’s manager of modifications and design, Nate Klenke, to discuss paint and interior design services and refurbishment and Duncan Aviation’s capabilities within that arena. Welcome to our educational podcast series, Nate, and let me start off by asking a general question. If I were acquiring an in-service aircraft today and wanted it to feel like a new aircraft from a passengers perspective, what types of modifications or upgrades to its interior, should I be considering? And why?
Nate Klenke (01:44):
First of all, thank you for allowing me to come and join you for this conversation and it’s an interesting topic, I think there’s a lot of things that go along with interior modifications and as time passes, what needs to change in different things obsolete, and really when we look at interior modifications from not only a sales, but a design perspective, we like to think about the interior as basically cabin experience.
Nate Klenke (02:11):
And so when you’re buying an airplane and you have certain mission that you’re running that airplane with, depending on the passengers, what kind of flights, we really look at, how do we develop that cabin experience? So when you look in an airplane, he should be looking at a lot of different things that go into that cabin experience. The ones that come off the top of your head first are going to be the colors, the leathers, the carpets of the veneers, color trends that may be driving some of that, you’re going to start looking into seating, is it the right configuration that I want to have?
Nate Klenke (02:45):
So should I be considering making a change to the floor plan with seats or upgrading the seats for whatever reason for comfort, but then you start getting into the rest of the things that not everybody always thinks about, which start to involve, how am I interacting within this environment in the CMS, the cabin management system for lighting, for temperature control, air quality, what is the in-flight entertainment experience that I’m having? What are the lights like?
Nate Klenke (03:14):
And a lot of times we see, especially in these realms of the CMS, IFE in lighting, obsolescence driving some of the changes that you’ll want to be looking at in terms of whether or not they’re still available, and what is the maintenance requirements as some of these systems age?
Tony Kioussis (03:34):
An aircraft’s interior might be in good shape, but how often do styles change or new passenger amenities become available? I guess I actually have two questions. How often might the aircraft’s interior need to be refurbished? And how often are sufficiently valuable new passenger amenities made available that owners will want to incorporate them as upgrades?
Nate Klenke (03:57):
Those are two really good questions and so let’s talk about how often interior might need to be refurbished? And there’s really no set time of one that needs to be done, a lot of the need in that question revolves around aircraft usage, how often is the aircraft flying? How many people are on the airplane? Is it private use? Is it charter use? Those really drive a lot of the timing for it.
Nate Klenke (04:23):
It also goes into the quality of materials that may have been used for that, and the quality of craftsmanship that goes into upholstery in a seat. How well was the cover on the seat, upholster to resist stretching, to resist wear? I mean, those kinds of things that go along with overall material qualities and quality of the completion. I’ve seen interiors last 10, 12 years. Matter of fact, we just published a project that I was involved in 13 years ago.
Nate Klenke (04:55):
It’s an airplane, a golf stream that has seen some charter use, it’s seen a lot of private use, so there’s not a large passenger load and they’ve taken extremely good care of the interior and they’ve done different maintenance, touch ups and clean ups and repairs as it goes along. And so that interior lasted 13 years. There’s times though, where I’ve seen airplanes that are three, four years old that tend to see a lot of activity in flight, maybe don’t have the time to do a lot of the maintenance over time for the interior to keep it going, to keep it clean, and some of those may start to show significant wear after three or four years.
Nate Klenke (05:33):
The timing is subjective, I also think that there are some other drivers that tend to tell us when an interior should be, or is ready to be refurbished, some of its design trends and design changes, I think every change in life seems to revolve around this seven year timeframe, and as those trends change we’ll see people request to have it upgraded, just because it’s looking old. You get those comments about, it looks dated, it looks like the 80s, so it’s those things that are starting to drive the changes.
Nate Klenke (06:07):
The last thing I would say in terms of timing is going to be typical ownership. And so when you see an airplane ownership, that’s going to last between five and eight years, at those times that’s when we really see a new owner coming onto the airplane that says, “This isn’t my style, I’d like to change this.” Or “I’m doing a different mission with this airplane so I need some different configuration on the airplane.” So it can range, but I would say on average, we’re going to see a lot of that happen probably within that five to eight year timeframe.
Tony Kioussis (06:39):
What are some other sought after passenger cabin upgrades that Duncan is installing these days?
Nate Klenke (06:45):
A lot of this revolved around a couple of things: density and comfort, we see a lot of upgrades or a lot of requests will come through to us that they want to either add a seat so that they can increase their charter occupancy on the airplane, they’ll also come through and ask for comfort areas like, [inaudible 00:07:08] for sleeping areas or crew rests, or conference areas where they want to do some business on the airplane.
Nate Klenke (07:13):
So those are really a lot of what you see as typical request for passenger cabin upgrades, but most recently, and because of technology and the changes in technology, we’re starting to see a lot of cabin management systems obsolete, we’re starting to see a lot of new options come available for in-flight entertainment, and when you do those, those are going to lead into the next thing of, “I have to modify the drink rails to do the switch panels.” So after we do veneer, so it leads into doing that and well, if we’re going to do that, it kind of says, “Here’s all these things that kind of tag along and chain off of that request.”
Nate Klenke (07:51):
So those are really the areas that we’re seeing a lot of the requests that drive change for cabin interior, either just refurbishment or reconfiguration. I would add to some of the drivers that are… There causing or initiating the request for cabin changes or upgrades is, we’ve seen over the past several years, that technology drives a lot of this and it’s related to the comment I had about cabin management systems and IFE years ago when I first started 20 plus years ago in this industry, products were lasting a lot longer. They were 10 to 15 year life cycles that we would see on some of these products that are being installed in the airplanes.
Nate Klenke (08:34):
With technology in our everyday life, the pace at which that’s changing, that’s rapidly transitioning over into business aviation. And so those technologies are now being developed and being developed at a rate much quicker and in some cases and rates, as quick as two years, we can see change in technologies that would dictate some upgrade requirement for that cabin experience.
Tony Kioussis (09:00):
Let’s talk about aircraft paint. Here too styles change and paint the grades over time, how often should an aircraft be repainted?
Nate Klenke (09:11):
Funny. It’s a good question. I chuckled because if you talk to my paint group here they’d say they want to do it every three years or every two years, but really what we’ve seen over my experience is five to seven years is a pretty typical timeframe, we went through the last recession, which drove that time in between or the frequency of paint to 10 to 12 years, sometimes longer, when we start looking at the length of time in between getting a good visual of the skin underneath the paint. And, there is some concern as we go through the pandemic that we’re going through right now, that some of those frequencies between paints on airplane will extend again, and that brings some concern because as you let that repaint time extend, you run into a potential for having more repairs for corrosion underneath the paint.
Nate Klenke (10:08):
The airplane is no different than anything else that we live in, it’s no different than our bodies, the longer we go in between health checks, there’s more stuff, there’s potentially to find and the older we get, the more frequently, those things kind of jump out at us. So as the airplane ages between the delivery of the airplane to the first paint, you could probably stretch it out a little bit farther, but as that aircraft ages, and as it sees more flight hours, everything kind of loosens up and it really should be looked at and should be repaying it as a maintenance event, but at least every five to seven years.
Tony Kioussis (10:43):
Are there different qualities of paint as it relates to durability?
Nate Klenke (10:48):
Rather than qualities of paint, is probably more about the prep and application, there’s many different paints obviously went from a conventional type paint to a high solids paint, there’s been discussions about chrome-free paint, which is a reaction to getting the chrome products out of paint as a health precaution, and so the qualities of the paint are ever changing.
Nate Klenke (11:14):
It really becomes about the prep, the application, and kind of almost finding that perfect recipe, paint is, it’s a chemistry project and the chemistries of each layer of paint go into how well the surface prep bonds to the primer, how well the primer bonds to the top coat, and then you have things that you can do with different types of top coats that do or don’t require a clear coat. So again, it’s finding that right recipe and then the prepping and how thick you put it on, how well you prep the surfaces that really, I think, differentiates the durability of the paint.
Tony Kioussis (11:52):
I’m curious, how long does it generally take to repaint an aircraft or refurbish the aircraft’s interior? Perhaps the correct question is how should an operator plan for that downtime should such work be conducted in concert with other major maintenance?
Nate Klenke (12:10):
Paint, like I said earlier, it is a maintenance event, it really should be looked as a maintenance event, I know a lot of times we look at it as a cosmetic, as an aesthetic, and so it should be done in conjunction with large inspections, so, when you’re planning for your large inspections, your frame, those are the right times to do the paint. It also helps with downtime, the paint time in a booth for us, is typically two weeks, but for anyone there’s going to be some time out of paint that you need to work on the airplane that is for detail and kind of clean it up and doing all the things that you need to do to make the paint look really nice with fasteners and polished areas and so on.
Nate Klenke (12:54):
I think the groundworks for as you’re scheduling and looking and forecasting what you’re going to do to the airplane over the next several years, should really be in that conversation. To do the interior at the same time is really about downtime, and cost savings, because as I do some of the larger inspections, I can now look at the largest inspection where I may have a good portion of the interior already removed for that inspection, and so if I’m going to be doing interior work during that time, I’m doing financial savings by not duplicating that effort because I’ve already got the interior out for the maintenance events, but I can also work on that interior while the maintenance event is being worked in the shop, we take the components out, take them in the back shops, and do all the mods or refurbishment that we have to do at the same time.
Nate Klenke (13:43):
So if you’re looking at a large refurbishment and even just a soft goods refurbishment just a large or a complex where you’re going to do seat changes, floor plan changes, cabinet mods, anything like that, planning those to do along with an inspection, it really makes a lot of sense and really makes it much easier to plan for as well.
Tony Kioussis (14:08):
How can Duncan’s capabilities differ from what is available through other independent service facilities and those provided by the OEMs?
Nate Klenke (14:18):
We do have a full service facility, a matter of fact, three full service facilities where we can complete the paint, the interior, the install, engine work, airframe maintenance, component repairs, you name it. We’ve got the ability to do all that at our major MRR locations, and so I think that is something that’s really important, we can control a customer and come onsite, they can see every phase of that project right there.
Nate Klenke (14:47):
We also like to talk about the authorizations that we have with the major OEMs. And those come in to be important to when we run into different modification challenges where we need some engineering assistance from the OEM, or we run into corrosion situations where we need some engineering assistance from the OEMs for that, and being authorized, helps us work with those airframe manufacturers much closer and have all the contexts that allow us to do those without having to do a lot of outsourcing or move the airplane somewhere else to have it fixed.
Nate Klenke (15:22):
We’re also an ODA, which is an organizational designation for the FAA that allows us to be more flexible and more agile when it comes to complex interior reconfigurations, as well as avionics mods. Some uniqueness that we have is that our capabilities are so broad that we don’t run into very many things that we can’t handle internally or that we can’t handle in conjunction with some of our OEM partners.
Tony Kioussis (15:51):
Thanks for that. Is there anything else that you would want people to know about Duncan Aviation’s capabilities?
Nate Klenke (15:58):
We do have the satellite network with 27, 28 satellite instill facilities around the country, we also have a rapid response teams for airframe and engine, so again, our support extends much beyond just three MROs that we can help support those projects and those clients even I’m away from the facility after the event is done to help support them, to make sure that their availability airplane stays high.
Nate Klenke (16:23):
We’ve been in business since 1956, so we’re really been around, we’ve got a lot of people here that have spent a lot of time in aviation and know the business and really are willing to help and in more of an educational way than client customer ways, so we want to be there to help. When we work with customers, with clients, and flight departments, our goals are the same and we really like to partner with our clients as a team and not just treat them as customers as they’re coming in for an event and then they go off. How do we do that in the most safest way for the customer and gives them the best reliability and accessibility to their airplane.
Tony Kioussis (17:06):
This has been another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. Please visit our ever-growing podcast library at assetinsightpodcast.com and select from any number of topics discussed with business aviation industry experts. This is Tony Kioussis and as always, thank you for listening.
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