Finishing touches

Finishing touches

At the Bombardier Center of Excellence, skilled craftspeople fuse passion, expertise and luxury to create bespoke aircraft interiors.

Finishing touches
Veli Akpinar, upholsterer

There are many reasons why the Center of Excellence is such a well-kept secret. Aside from the fact that the world’s most sought-after artisans, innovators and creators come here to work on Bombardier Global 5500, 6500 and 7500 jets, so much of what occurs in the Center is about developing the future. From high-tech prototypes of bespoke seats to the production of some of the finest furniture ever made—using rare yet sustainable sources—each aircraft is treated as something that can be personalized, enhanced and molded to any and every client. This includes onboard amenities that rival those of a five-star hotel suite: a customizable kitchen, pressurized built-in wine storage, a full dining room, lounge and master bedroom. 

In this state-of-the-art facility where you can see the inner workings of an aircraft painstakingly assembled, the majority of the labor is meticulously done by hand. Here, some 500 craftspeople apply their skills so that each project becomes a unique endeavor which mirrors a client’s tastes.

Patternmakers sketch out the curves of seats, upholsterers give them shape—and assemble the finest pieces of leather—and cabinet- makers sand, stain and varnish a multitude of varieties of wood. More atelier than factory in mindset, the Center’s workshops produce fast but not furiously; each material used is scrutinized and made-to-order. Whether the idea is to create a luxurious cocoon, an extension of a home, a reflection of an office or a sanctuary from the rest of the world, every request is taken seriously when designing for an altitude of several thousand feet. 

The unique approach to production at the Center of Excellence is truly a shared creative effort. Owners have a myriad of options to develop the aircraft environment they desire. To navigate this process, clients are accompanied by a dedicated project lead and a designer. “Many customers know exactly what they want, while others pore through all our samples and want to see multiple renderings,” says Benoit Deguire, general manager of manufacturing operations at Bombardier. And if they can’t find what they like among the countless options on offer, the artisans at the Bombardier Center of Excellence will come up with a custom-made solution. “For the Bombardier Global 7500, practically everything can be customized, including the materials and the configuration of the cabin,” says Deguire. “Our flexibility is what separates us from the competition. The sky truly is the limit.”

Nadia Larivière and Marie-Pierre Lapointe, upholsterers
Nadia Larivière and Marie-Pierre Lapointe, upholsterers.

Made to measure 

At his workstation, design expert Juan José Mejía carefully applies a gold-hued paint to the stems of a headrest. Steps away, sewers are applying luxe overstitching to leather covers. At the center of each decor or design scheme chosen for a cabin are the equivalent of royal thrones, the acclaimed Nuage seats. These award-winning chairs are customizable in many ways: Some people prefer them wider, others opt for cloth rather than leather. Aesthetically, a broad range of choices from subtle shades to bold patterns is available—as are above-and-beyond detailing options such as piping or diamond stitching. “A single prototype can take up to 400 hours of work,” says Yanik Babeu, manufacturing director, describing his team’s dedication. “And that’s not including production.” 

Babeu points to a beautifully constructed black leather seat with white stitching to prove his point. “Around 20 sewers can work on a single seat,” he says. “Yet in the end, all the seams have to be identical.” It’s hardly surprising that some of the artisans that have worked at the Bombardier Center of Excellence earned their stripes while working for heralded luxury brands. The degree of precision required here is similar to that of the finest leather-goods houses in Florence or Paris. And the same goes for the selection of materials.

“I challenge you to find a flaw on this piece of leather,” says Babeu. “Just look at how smooth and uniform the texture is.” He explains that one aircraft cabin can require from eight to ten hides, and that only the finest sections are chosen. Powerful lighting is used to identify the slightest defects, which are recorded by computer, before a laser-guided machine begins cutting. Everything created here receives the same attention to detail, from sofas, headboards, curtains and cabinets to electrical fittings—it’s an extremely careful approach. Shaping materials here takes a meticulous eye and a careful, trusted hand.

Observing these talented artists shape wood into cabinets is like watching sculptors shape clay.

Bombardier Centre of Excellence

High standards

The heat you feel at the Bombardier Center of Excellence should come as no surprise: The ambient temperature and humidity are controlled to preserve the quality of the materials. The same goes for the two huge cylinders that stand in the middle of the space. “The wood veneering for each plane is stored there until it’s ready to be applied,” explains Martin Dagenais, manufacturing director. Whether they’re using eucalyptus, Brazilian oak or a variety of burl, the woodworkers turn precious materials into custom-made cabinets and trimmings. To get an understanding of the precision of their work, you only have to look at the grain of the wood, where the sinuous curves are perfectly aligned along the entire surface of each piece of furniture. Observing these talented artists shape wood into cabinets is like watching sculptors shape clay.

Craftspeople take every effort to ensure that anything applied, reinforced, added or reshaped in any aircraft is done so with rigorous safety measures. Extra time is taken to re-examine work in different lighting schemes to guarantee that all requirements of security and luxury are met. And whether it’s countertops of Italian marble or Corian, or furnishings designed to be very light, waterproof, non-flammable and even soundproof, every component of the aircraft undergoes a demanding series of inspections in order to obtain certification which states that it complies with aeronautics criteria. In addition to verifying the safety of the aircraft, quality-assurance analysts constantly and carefully examine each artisan’s work during different phases of creation to ensure they meet a list of requirements.

Louis-Philippe Lamarre, upholsterer.
Louis-Philippe Lamarre, upholsterer.

No detail is left to chance: To some owners, luxury might mean silk carpets; others will want a chrome-plated shower or golden dishware—or even dedicated library or karaoke spaces on board. Ultimately, the people at the Bombardier Center of Excellence bring the same level of passion and precision to every cabin, no matter how distinctive it might be. And since everything is carried out in the greatest secrecy, that also means each owner will have the pleasure of sharing their aircraft with a privileged few—allowing some small part of the world to witness the drive and determination behind Bombardier’s devoted teams working in the Center of Excellence.

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