AFI KLM E&M has just completed a Boeing 777 cabin retrofit for Azur Air.
AFI KLM E&M has developed something of a reputation for carrying out cabin reconfigurations in a short time, such as that for French low-cost carrier Joon.
It is also a 777 specialist, having completed different cabin retrofit projects on 46 Air France aircraft and for a dozen other airlines. The latest project is for Azur Air of Russia, owned by the Anex Tourism Group of Turkey.
The 777-300ER aircraft are leased from AerCap and are the first three from around 40 aircraft that will be leaving the Emirates fleet over the next few years.
Alexander Tahbaz, head of business development at AFI KLM E&M and project manager for the Azur Air programme, says getting in early should put the company in a good place for picking up subsequent conversions, especially as AerCap is one of the biggest customers of the company’s design office and has a number of aircraft on lease to Air France and KLM.
He adds that, as a result, there is a good working relationship with the leasing company, which is fair towards suppliers and operates with transparency. There were three big challenges.
The first was a very tight timescale, the project kicking off in November 2017 and the first aircraft delivered in January 2019. He says 18 months is a more usual time for a cabin retrofit project like this, so the team was tripled in size to 17 people.
Secondly, FAA certification was required – AFI KLM E&M normally follows EASA requirements. A non-cabin related extra was the need to install a nitrogen inerting system in the centre fuel tank to meet Russian requirements. This is being carried out by HAECO in Hong Kong, where the aircraft are delivered for the cabin installation following a C check and lease return programme in Dubai.
The third challenge was the seating density as the LOPA shows one row of seven Business Class seats (2-3-2) and 524 Economy Class seats (2-4-2), for a total of 531 – normally these aircraft carry 410-430 passengers.
“The interior is completely new, from floor to ceiling, including sidewalls, bins, galleys, and lavatories. Some of this was due to the need to remove all customisation for Emirates in the original interior, and there was a lot”, he notes.
The business class seats came from those removed as part of an Air France reconfiguration project, while economy features the Geven Steezy seat, also used in the Joon project.
Also removed was a Panasonic IFE system, to be replaced by Safran Aerosystems’ RAVE. AFI KLM E&M has carried out the most retrofits with this system, but this was the first time for a 777-330ER and there was a need to guarantee sufficient electrical power to operate all 531 screens, 11 overhead screens, and an additional 50 hot spares simultaneously.
Four of these hot spares are installed in the back of the last row of seats. As the LOPA reaches Boeing’s 430-seat limit between Door 2 and Door 5, space becomes very tight for things like wiring, ducting and overhead PSU space.
The second aircraft was due for delivery at the end of April, the third at the end of May. The first aircraft took around three months but the turnaround times for the others are expected to improve as experience is gained. In June, Azur Air contracted directly with AFI KLM E&M for a fourth aircraft.