“Quality is a question of attitude.”
by Eisha Iirshad
Walter Devic and his colleagues at RUAG’s Interior Shop in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, ensure that the cabins of their customers’ business aircraft are what they are supposed to be: places of business and relaxation, with the emphasis on stylishness and intelligent functionality.
Anyone who listens to Walter Devic cannot help but notice that here is someone who is enthusiastic about his profession – after almost 34 years, he is still just as keen as he was on his first day. Walter is a trained master car upholsterer, but airplanes have long been the passion of the 56-year-old. “I was trained as a car upholsterer. We had everything back then: cars, vintage cars, buses, ship interiors and even tanks,” Walter remembers. He came to aviation by chance: In 1985, a colleague told him that the then Dornier aircraft company was looking for an upholsterer. “I had no concrete idea what an aircraft upholsterer did, but I applied anyway.” On his first visit to Oberpfaffenhofen, Walter was captivated by the world of aviation.
Walter Devic works on a cover for an aircraft seat.
Today he works with four colleagues at the Interior Shop of RUAG MRO International in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich. The shop comprises workshops for synthetic materials, carpentry and upholstery. The men are experts in their field: “Some of my colleagues are trained as master craftsmen like me. The others have been with us for a very long time and also do masterly work.”
Customers from all over the world come to RUAG’s one-stop shop in Oberpfaffenhofen for maintenance work and upgrades, for a new paint job – or to have the aircraft cabin refurbished. And those who have the choice are spoiled with them: “If you order a new car, you might have five different interior colors to choose from. With us, the customer has a whole range of options. They can choose from a large number of materials, patterns and possibilities,” says Walter.
“ A business jet is a highlight. When you approach it, it already looks impressive. You walk up the gangway and see the interior. First a look into the cockpit with all the instruments, then the galley. And when you move on: leather seats, woodwork, carpeting – that’s something quite different to, say, a car. ”
For this purpose, RUAG has set up a showroom in Oberpfaffenhofen in the company’s own carpentry workshop. Anyone who knows what they want will certainly find it here. And those who are not sure yet will find inspiration in the drawers of the showroom: “There we have it all: wood, carpets, leather or Alcantara – and endless colors,” explains Walter passionately. The chosen material and color combinations can be visualized in advance by computer to facilitate the customer’s decision. Customers are happy to receive advice and rely on the experience of Walter’s team.
All materials used in the aircraft cabin must meet the highest safety standards – especially with regard to fire protection. Only materials that have been tested and certified may be used. Walter and his colleagues constantly keep up with the latest developments and regularly visit special trade fairs at which suppliers present the latest materials with fire certificates. However, it is not enough for these materials to meet the safety requirements on their separate merits. The selected combinations of upholstery, covers and other materials such as sewing thread or Velcro straps for an aircraft seat must also be tested before they are installed in the cabin. The specialists in the RUAG Interior Shop produce a sample of the desired material combination – which they call a fire cushion. A specialist company then tests this sample for its fire resistance.
Walter Devic is still enthusiastic about his profession – even after almost 34 years.
Optimized downtimes in RUAG’s one-stop shop
High-quality and handcrafted materials, which are also certified for use in aircraft, require different delivery times. Once the customer has made their choice, it takes around three months for the materials to be available. Planning is therefore paramount: In order to optimize the downtimes of their aircraft, customers usually combine the refurbishment of their aircraft cabins with other services in RUAG’s one-stop shop, such as regular maintenance, a new paint job or upgrades. “Very few customers come to us just because of the cabin. We plan all maintenance visits at an early stage so that everything is ready when an aircraft arrives in Oberpfaffenhofen,” reports Walter. Close coordination in the planning of the various measures is essential. For every “pit stop” of an aircraft, there is a project manager who prepares an exact schedule. The various tasks then run in parallel. While the aircraft is being serviced and upgraded or repainted, the Interior Shop team has time to furnish the interior to the customer’s wishes. The various jobs on and in the aircraft are usually carried out simultaneously. That is why Walter and his team often work closely with colleagues from other areas – literally so, because space inside an aircraft is limited.
Quality above all
Optimized downtimes, strict safety requirements – and above all, quality: “After all, the customer always wants to have an aircraft that is equipped to a premium standard,” says Walter. For example, when laying a hand-tufted cabin carpet, which can easily be 20 meters long and must be handled with the utmost care. “Above all, the cutting requires the highest precision, because one wrong cut could ruin the entire carpet. You need experienced people who know exactly where and how to make a cut,” explains Walter.
Selecting suppliers is just as important as precise craftsmanship: “We only use the highest quality materials. For leather seats, for example, we only use the finest, best-tanned leather,” says Walter. It is a challenge to ensure consistent quality and a harmonious look across the entire aircraft seating. “If you need 30 hides for the seating, it means of course that they come from 30 different animals. And they all have to be flawless and look outstandingly good.” Few suppliers can deliver such quality. “Among the many companies that offer leather for airplane seats, we have a handful with whom we work regularly,” adds Walter.
People, such as those in RUAG MRO International’s Interior Shop team, who want to deliver the very highest quality every time, need more than just basic training. “It’s like earning the basic motorcycle driving license, which gives you the fundamental skills to motorcycle on flat roads. However, if you want to motorcycle over alpine passes safely and well, you have to learn a great deal more,” says passionate motorcyclist Walter. “The same goes for the quality work that we hand over to our customers. You can’t learn it at any training course. It is the dedication of every employee who is working here and who carries out his or her tasks with attention to detail. Are the seams set correctly? Is that centered? What does the overall picture look like? A lot of things come together. Quality is also a question of attitude.”