Leather, tough as it is, is vulnerable to light, heat, dry air, water, and even some things we don’t often notice, like certain perfumes. The key is to make frequent and careful inspections, “treat” only when necessary, and clean as unobtrusively as possible — and at least daily with a clean dry cloth. If leather dries out (particularly likely near windows or air conditioning outlets), it can crack and finally split. It’s good to encourage the use of protective coverings in these areas, and also to encourage keeping window shades drawn whenever possible.
Off the shelf “treatments” can cause more harm than good. A lot more. Leathers are best treated only with whatever is recommended by the supplier, which should include a UV protectant. If leather gets too soft, the stitching can elongate the needle holes; at worst, the stitches can pull out.
Maintenance and repairs
Furniture repairs usually entail scratch removal. Brian Barber, vice president of sales and marketing at Bizjet in Tulsa, OK, says that it is hard to overestimate the delicacy of the work, or the amount of patience required, in polishing the finish of veneers. The veneers are so very thin to begin with that those scratches, assuming they do not penetrate to the adhesive, leave an extremely thin layer of wood between the bottom of the scratch and the substrate. Not removing the full depth of the scratch leaves … a scratch. Going too deep will expose the honeycomb material beneath.
Tony Bailey, vice president of operations at Comlux Aviation Services in Indianapolis, IN, notes that interior work differs from regular airframe, engine, and avionics work in that technicians are homegrown: “There is no special licensing; they’re trained on the job. In our system, we have AMTs and A&Ps; we have avionics specialists. In interiors, [formal aviation-related] training is nonexistent. Then there are specialties: woodworking; finishing; fabrication; upholstery; cabinetmakers; installers — then there are the finish fabricators and finish installers. These all require specialized skills, but there is no formal training available.”
Even unimportant-looking details fulfill important duties, and must receive proper treatment: “It’s important to know what you’re dealing with,” Bailey says. “Sound barriers need to be re-installed exactly right, or you’re just adding weight without any benefit. Get the right parts, the right order, and the right fit.”
So, where does he find qualified workers? “We find them in small shops, or sometimes from the big completion centers.” He adds, “A beautiful thing is an A&P that can do interiors and avionics. These guys can write their own ticket.”
Aircraft interior materials, components, and procedures are not commonly known. “You can hire a local cabinetmaker,” Bailey says, “but the certification and weight restrictions — glues, weights, expansion of parts, especially paperwork — all are so important. Especially with woodwork, you’ll find that gaps change at altitude. Temperatures as well as pressures can change dimensions. Not all veneers will work in all circumstances. Everything matters — even the moisture content of the woods. You need to have all sorts of special skills, and sometimes special tooling.
“It’s not like getting an MRO spec on a particular aircraft, where you get a book with specific instructions,” he says. “Even avionics, which differ more radically, at least have good documentation. But interiors — every single interior is unique to that owner. Five or six airplanes, with sequential serial numbers, will not have the same ‘fit,’ one to the other, even with the same interior components. You may find an aircraft that is set up with, say, a wiring harness that is intended to be used in the future — if you do not know why it’s there, what do you do with it?”
Dier sums, “Assuring the crew takes pride in the fantastic machine they are flying while providing a little TLC, will ensure longevity of an interior.” AMT