REDEFINING HIGH-END INTERIORS - Michael Reichenecker, Aircraft Interior Designer


Michael “Skyboek” Reichenecker is one of the aviation industry’s most prolific and innovative aircraft interior architects. For global market leader in completion centers Lufthansa Technik, and their VIP clients, he has created interior designs for wide-body and narrow-body aircraft, including BBJs — 1-3, MAX 7 and 8, B747-8, B787, and Airbus ACJs — NEOs, A330, A340, A350, and A380. Reichenecker is co-owner and Head of Development and Design at real estate investment and advisory firm MRAG, which offers architecture and interior design services through SKYBOEK Design Studio.

Offering insight into aircraft design, Reichenecker sat down with ASG’s Managing Director, Jeffrey Lowe to discuss his experience on how his involvement in real estate project development is beneficial when planning to outfit a VIP aircraft and his overall expertise on design.

Tell me about your background.

In 2004, I co-founded Berlin-based real estate development and advisory firm — MRAG — with the aim of developing and building high-end residential and hospitality projects. I spent two years in New York (1999-2001) refining my skills in interior design for the very wealthy, and restarted my architectural business in 2001 in Berlin.

A commission for a Lufthansa crew hotel eventually opened the door to Lufthansa Technik’s VIP Completion facility in Hamburg a few years later.

My mixed background of high-end interiors and real estate project development has been beneficial in many ways, while taking on demanding aircraft projects.

How does experience in real estate development help build a custom VIP aircraft cabin?

Very often, VIP customers are real estate developers and investors. When it comes to outfitting an aircraft, creating a custom VIP cabin is more like property development than not.

A green aircraft is similar to an empty lot. I look at the feasibility of potential area programs first. Then I start the design and tender procedure. The procedure of tendering out a required design similar to real estate projects can be an excellent way to achieve comparable quotes from outfitters. But it helps to be aware of the specialties in aviation.

What do you see as advisable steps?

The first step would be to either hire an experienced aircraft interior designer or look for a firm, such as Asian Sky Group, that is excellently equipped to assist with that.

What should a client look for in a designer?

It should be made sure the designer has been in the aviation business for a while and is also experienced with the aircraft model in question. Experience in the field is immensely important, since everything in aviation revolves around certification.

If a design is done by an architect less experienced with airworthiness requirements, the aircraft may very well end up as being not certifiable and thus not buildable. This can make additional efforts necessary and thus cause loss in time due to mandatory redesign at a later stage.

What does a client need to tell the designer and what can be expected?

The designer should be given instructions on the required interior design style or asked to come up with suggestions. Not every floorplan or layout is advisable for every aircraft model, but the designer will advise on how to best accomplish all requirements. Although this process may involve time, thoroughness here can very likely speed things up at a later stage in the project.

Photorealistic 3D renderings, drawings, material boards and even 3D movie clips will give a very clear idea of how the finalized aircraft interior will look and feel. Based on the “design package”, consisting of renderings, drawings and material definitions, a specification professional should be hired to put in words how the aircraft should be outfitted, adding relevant technical information.

What makes a suitable tender?

Design package and short specification together form a tender and will give completion centers a clear idea of the requirements while at the same time ensuring comparable quotes for the customer.

What are the benefits of tendering?

Utilizing the tendering procedure can benefit customers and outfitters alike in important ways:

  • Both, client and customer gain from a clear understanding of what the requirements are and thus quotes can be targeted to that with lower risk surcharge.
  • It will ultimately increase the customer’s negotiation power towards the outfitters, comparable to the real estate world.
  • A professional procedure will simplify the project for everybody and thus lead to higher design quality and a quicker completed cabin, at lower costs.

What about used aircraft?

Basically, the same procedure can be applied there too. Either the buyer will initiate a redesign as described, or the seller can do that. A used aircraft up for sale, presented with an attractive redesign, including confirmed price tag is likely to find a new owner more easily.