New Zealanders seem to have both aviation and design innovation in their genes and New Zealand companies have created a number of ripples worldwide in recent years. One such company is National Aircraft Interiors (NAI) which is rapidly becoming a leading player in the global aircraft interior market.
NAI was founded in 2001 and services the rotorcraft, GA, fixed wing, charter and RPT sectors. The company is devoted to offering a bespoke interior finishing service which it says is only achievable because it has a dedicated team of designers and technicians working hard to ensure that all its products and services meet its customer’s specifications and expectations.
So what makes a family company based at Nelson, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, develop into a global contender capable of competing for large scale aircraft interior programs? ‘It’s our responsiveness and our ability to offer a ‘turn-key’ solution to our clients that wins the day’ according to NAI Director John Hill. ‘We are a forward thinking business, striving to deliver ultimate product solutions. We are committed to the highest standards of professionalism, reliability and performance and we feel that the industry has begun to recognise this. Over the years we have developed a strong base of satisfied customers and we are recognised world-wide as a company that provides on-going project support and un-compromised after sales service’.
One of NAI’s key strategies has been to develop a sophisticated in house capability, capable of attracting global interest. ‘By developing comprehensive in house facilities we’ve eliminated any concerns our global clients may have had about where we operate. It’s not about geography any more it’s about capability’ says John Hill. ‘We’ve focused hard on developing our skills and technologies to make it possible to compete on the global stage with credibility’.
NAI’s commitment to building capability now sees the company with Part 148 maintenance approval and the following key resources:
- A flame test laboratory
- A complete in house design team
- Rapid prototyping capacity
- STC preparation
- Project management tools
- A certified quality assurance system
- A dress cover production facility
- The ability to produce moulded and cut foams.
NAI’s commitment to customer service is clearly demonstrated in a recent project as John Hill explains. ‘NAI was contacted by an international airline on a Wednesday regarding a large refurbishment project that had just received board approval to proceed. Time frames were incredibly tight. Formal RFP and SPEC documents were completed over the ensuing days as were price and product negotiations. A deal was struck by Friday and a PO raised and signed. A NAI team member left the country over the weekend, arriving at the airline’s facility on Monday morning local time to carry out patterning, design discussions and material choices. This included new leather PAX dress covers and moulded foams, crew seating and flight attendant seating for a number of aircraft. Changing the covers and foams gave the client the opportunity to change the look of the whole seating and aircraft interior. The visit to the airline was followed by rapid prototyping of foams and covers back at NAI’s facility allowing final "first article" sign off by Friday of that same week’.
‘By this time, materials had been arranged and manufacture was able to commence on the following Monday morning. Because of our experience in interior compliance and testing, compliance was able to run alongside of manufacture, greatly shortening up time frames. We used our state of the art flame testing lab as well as a US based test lab for combination testing. In this case a full burn test programme was required and from start to final STC approval took only thirty days. The airline in this instance, received its entire interior refit for five aircraft including STC approval for install, a Form 1 release certificate and instructions for continued airworthiness within a total of 46 days. That is what we mean when we refer to offering ‘turn- key’ solutions’.
NAI now has an impressive list of STC’s covering over 204 aircraft and helicopter models. A further 3 new STC’s have been added in the last two months including one from Transport Canada for Bombardier Q400 interiors which will allow NAI to access the Canadian market. Because the company’s design team is able to pull from a huge database when designing an interior, they have the ability to create any experience desired. ‘Our mission at NAI is to transform the cabin experience’ says John Hill. ‘Our design team has a clear vision and they know it takes a pragmatic, flexible and innovative approach to maximize the potential in every cabin space. Decorative stitching, embossed logos, embroidery detailing and perforation are some of the distinctive touches that can be added to create the feel and brand that is being created. Many modern manufacturer methods, once unseen in the aviation world, are now used such as laminated seat covers and moulded foams. Moulded foams provide the ability to create the most complex design at no additional cost’.
Versatility and scope of services provides NAI’s clients with the ability to totally transform their cabin interiors. This not only includes the cockpit and cabin seating but also flooring, carpets, curtains, nets, seat belts, miscellaneous trim and accessories. And the company is keen to grow its brand internationally and continue to develop its product offerings. ‘We are a forward thinking company that plans to increase market share in the aviation industry both nationally and internationally’ says John Hill. ‘With the backing of our approvals, and our belief in absolute customer satisfaction we intend to grow our company further and demonstrate that a capable New Zealand business can mix it with the best on the world stage’.