Embraer Switching to In-House Interior Design
Embraer is bringing interior development and modification for its full line of corporate jets in-house. That’s the word from Ernest Edwards, president of Embraer Executive Jets. The company previously contracted with BMW Designworks USA for the interior cabin design on its Phenom and Legacy jets. Embraer’s new customer center and its under-construction engineering and technical center, both at its Melbourne, Fla. campus, will be the epicenter of the new effort. “We want to bring design excellence in-house,” explained Edwards.
To that end, Embraer is forming an experienced team. Over the summer it hired Jay Beever as vice president of interior design. Beever previously served as design manager for new product development at Gulfstream Aerospace, where he worked on the new G650 and the Elite interiors for the G550 and G450. Prior to that he was a design engineering supervisor at Ford’s advanced concepts studio in California, where he helped fashion a wide array of concept vehicles for Ford’s domestic and European brands.
Beever’s team at Embraer includes senior designers Riba Talib, a fellow Gulfstream alum, and Joshua Rea, who joined the company from big-iron completion center Gore Design Completions.
“Jay’s task is going to be to look at the whole range of airplanes and fine tune the interiors, given customer feedback. Then, maybe do some refreshments,” said Edwards. “You think about it, the world hadn’t seen anything like the [Phenom] 100 and 300 when we launched them in 2005. They were very fresh, but we are seven years into that program. Altogether, Embraer has 550 executive jets out there right now. The older Legacy 600s are 10 years old and the older Phenom 100s are already three years old. It is inevitable that people will start thinking about refurbishing and refreshing their interiors. I think it would be nice to start planning ahead for those days.”
Beever thinks Embraer’s collaboration with BMW Designworks gives him a good starting point. “Embraer already has done an incredible job of putting itself in a design leadership position because of the work it has done with BMW. There has always been an appetite with this company to differentiate itself with design. The next step is where I get involved, to take design to the next level.”
Unmatched Array of Interiors
The designer faces immediate challenges with the interiors of the new Legacy 450 and 500. Embraer’s plan is to offer customers an unmatched array of interior choices for aircraft within this $15 million to $18.5 million price point.
Beever describes Embraer’s goal as offering a high degree of personalization on those interiors as opposed to customization. “That means strategically planning zones of adjustability ahead of time that will allow the customer to put his fingerprint on the interior without getting out of control [on price]. Customers need to feel like they have a level of adjustability that allows them to come close to a custom airplane [interior] and we need to make sure there is flexibility and changeability of certain touchpoints to give them a unique look,” he said.
Beever sees most choices falling within colors, substrates and fabrics that will be available, but he also sees “bolt-on” features with “zones of appliqué,” such as customer logos or family crests. The challenge is to keep engineering in budget while keeping the customer satisfied. “That’s the challenge,” he said. “The more offerings you have available, even in a ‘plug and play’ configuration, the more engineering is involved. Of course, the larger the aircraft, the larger the price tag and the more you have to offer.
“The industry currently understands design as color and material. My perspective is industrial design and engineering. A well-run design studio incorporates all of those disciplines. Our industrial designers will be working on new product development and, when a design is released, engineering will be able to accept it. I’ve always been very practical in my approach,” Beever said.
Bridging the Product Divide
To further bridge the design to end product divide, Embraer recently acquired a minority interest in Aero Seating Technologies (AST) of San Gabriel, Calif. AST currently is a supplier on Embraer’s Lineage large executive jet.
Embraer also is testing its interiors much the way NASA tests spacecraft, using a full-size cabin mock-up to run passenger cabin simulations on its new Legacy 500, according to Edwards. “Our engineers and executives sit in the cabin for three or four hours just like a customer would and we simulate a real flight. The passengers watch movies and are served drinks and meals. When you do that, you start noticing things you wouldn’t otherwise notice, and we are using that experience in finalizing the full production interior for the Legacy 500.”
Customers visiting Embraer’s new Melbourne center and showrooms already are seeing tangible evidence of the company’s in-house interiors focus. “This is an area to watch at Embraer,” said Robert Knebel, vice president of executive aircraft sales. “We are going to give midsize jet customers the same completion experience they would have if they ordered a Lineage.” o