While most of us are complaining about shrinking legroom on airplanes, the top .01 percent are spending their days coming up with ways to trick out their private jets.
We’re not just talking about lie-flat seats and Prada eye masks: These planes have floor-to-ceiling windows, mohair and lambskin leather, and interchangeable seat configurations included in their custom design. And they often call on one company to make it happen.
Embraer Executive Jets, which sells direct to consumers and to companies that rent out their jets (think JetSuiteX), works with the super rich to personalize the interiors of their private planes, creating temporary living spaces that rival any five-star hotel. “[We’re] determined not to try and predict customer behavior,” Jay Beever, vice president of interior design for Embraer Executive Jets, told Condé Nast Traveler. “Rather, we adjust to their desires.” Those desires are pushing the boundaries of private aviation design.
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The company released new concepts recently that included an Art Deco–inspired Manhattan Airship and Hollywood Airship, both nods to the glamour of the early days of consumer flight. (Beever even tapped former Disney Imagineer Eddie Sotto to collaborate.) Passengers can hang out in the plane’s Cloud Club Bar, which features fold-up bar stools and a portrait-view window; the VIPs are invited back to the private Crystal Room, capable of hosting dinner for up to six.
That’s just the latest over-the-top request the company has received. One customer asked Embraer to use carbon fiber detailing in his aircraft that matched his Pagani sports car interior. Another wanted a two-person, stand-up granite shower (with a window), and yet another wanted floor-to-ceiling windows in the main seating area. “Each of our design concepts serves as examples of how we can work with our customers to deliver a flying experience unlike anything else found in the sky,” gushed Beever. The Kyoto Airship, Skyacht, and Skyranch were additional wild concepts Embraer envisioned.
On the Kyoto Airship they enlarged the windows to provide a panoramic view of the sky and bathe the cabin in natural light. Much of the inspiration for the Skyacht™ One came from the commissioned yacht Thunderbird, made by master boat builder John Hacker in 1939 for the scion of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest families, George Whittell Jr. Details include rich mahogany, pegged and inlaid, with custom brass fittings, Chesterfield-inspired seating, and portable British campaign furniture. Meanwhile, the Skyranch One has a bison horn beer tap and inlaid onyx counter.
“As selecting an aircraft interior is subjective, we try to manage this by creating the ‘new normal,'” said Beever. “In other words, surprise and delight the customer with new features and experiences that they had not considered before.” Even the design process is high tech. Embraer’s designers offer clients a 360-degree simulation of what their final cabin will look like at their facility on Florida’s space coast.
Then, around the corner from the Customer Center is its Engineering and Technology Center, where industrial designers and engineers work together on the future of aircraft interiors. They even test new tech with tools like HALT—or “Highly Accelerated Life Testing” equipment, a chamber that simulates flight and submits new gear to extreme temperatures, pressure, vibration, and humidity. Embraer says this is how they’re able to say “yes” to crazy customer requests and offer solutions that seem like fantasy.