Taking the Floor…

posted on 15th May 2019
Taking the Floor…

F/LIST is recognised for its high-technology solutions to traditional material requirements. Never an organisation to shy away from a challenge, a little over a decade ago F/LIST turned its attention to creating a centuries-old, brand new flooring product for private jets – stone. Dieter Franz, Business Development & Sales New Market AIR, takes the floor…

In the past, moving through a business jet cabin in most cases meant walking on vinyl or carpet. About ten years ago, we began to think that business jet owners and operators might want something more hygienic and easier to clean, especially in the entrance and lavatory areas, combined with an extra touch of luxury appearance. Thinking about one’s home, a carpeted lavatory or entrance just doesn’t seem the best solution.

In 2009, F/LIST therefore offered one of the first real stone floorings for aircraft cabins, as a retrofit product for refurbishments. Since then, the tiled flooring concept quickly matured and become a regular order item for OEMs. By early 2019, some 500 hard-surface floorings had been delivered for all kinds and sizes of aircraft, from Pilatus PC-24 to Boeing 747-8. In those ten years and 500 floors, we’ve made significant technological progress and learned from the market and its developing requirements.

Now, stone flooring has become not only a valuable addition to the company’s comprehensive cabin interior portfolio, perfectly complementing our core competence as a provider of integrated cabin interiors, but also grown into an important business area in its own right. A Crystal Cabin Award nomination for F/LIST’s Wood Flooring, plus wins at the German Design Awards and German Innovation Awards for our Heated Stone Flooring, speak volumes for our leading role in the market.

Vinyl and carpet are still common flooring materials in aircraft cabins, and it took quite some time for the market to respond to our real stone alternative. After a sluggish start, however, we have experienced a veritable boom in orders over the past four years, mainly for entrance areas and lavatories, with order numbers still rising. Tiled hard-surface flooring has the advantage of being equally suitable for OEM aircraft, one-off VIP narrow- and widebody aircraft, and for use in the aftermarket segment. The ease of F/LIST flooring installation, non-invasive removal and re-installation also greatly facilitate subsequent maintenance beneath the covering, adding more value.

For several years after its release, stone was F/LIST’s only flooring product. Its natural splendour may have contributed to a growing demand for more natural surfaces though, and in 2015 the market received our real wood flooring enthusiastically. Its advantage for some customers is the possibility it offers for creating parquet patterns familiar from their homes, including planking, herringbone and starburst. With the availability of natural wood and stone which, we know from our residential business segment, often go hand-in-hand, more customers are mixing different flooring types in their aircraft, experiencing the same variety in interior design as they do in their homes.

As with all F/LIST’s interior products, constant innovation and development is imperative if we are to keep up with the demands and technical standards of the industry. Our advantage is that our products are bespoke configurations comprised of pre-engineered elements, rather than series-produced items. This allows us to keep up with evolving requirements in weight reduction and optimisation of surface properties, for example, while also offering new customisation and design features.

The latter have proven extremely important in helping F/LIST flooring remain visible and prominent in customers’ minds. Laser engraving with optional coloured resin inserts, ornate marquetry in wood or stone, or the combination of the two materials in single tiles, provide a playground for ambitious industrial designers. Upgrades, including integrated heating for both wood and stone flooring, various surface finishes, among them polished and brushed alternatives and, naturally, the constant expansion of our wood and stone portfolios, keeps interest in our products high.

The pool of available, pre-certified veneers and stone is constantly growing and by now is quite substantial. Our dedicated wood veneer and stone specialists go out of their way to personally source new species from all around the world, enhancing our standard catalogue and finding the perfect forms against specific requests.

And it isn’t always easy. Stone is an ever-trending material in interior design, but it should be noted that vertical stone applications are subject to fewer limitations than flooring. Sometimes these limitations cause difficulties, especially when customers have a favourite stone type that they’ve used in their home for countertops or wall coverings and then request for their aircraft cabin floor.

We’ve experimented with many stone types and accumulated an enormous database on their properties, including solidity, density and stain resistance. We really aim to understand the DNA of a stone and, sometimes, we have to be honest and say: “This stone you like so much, it’s just won’t be suitable long term as a flooring material,” perhaps due to its limited wear or stain resistance.

The same is true for the relationship between wood veneers and wood flooring, although the limitations are not as severe as with stone. If a wood veneer is suitable for use on cabinets, it is suitable for a floor as well – the challenge lies more in the durable varnish surface a floor needs. In the end, though, the better a floor is taken care of, the longer it will remain in good condition.

But even the best tested and most proven materials can be damaged by accident, or worn over time. And that’s when even more of F/LIST’s added value comes into play: the global availability of product support is a crucial factor in the success of our natural surface floorings. Wherever in the world our customers encounter a problem, our skilled mobile repair teams are available to fix defects or damage in-situ.

Meanwhile, our constant effort to develop and improve existing products does not keep us from innovating. From our initial efforts to create an alternative to vinyl for example, we’ve now come around to encapsulating its benefits in a new product of our own, incorporating the next logical step. We’ve upgraded a well-tried aircraft vinyl product with the significant advantages of our floor tile and fastening concept.

F/LIST Vinyl Tile Flooring combines elegance, convenience, ease of care and customisation options to make it an innovative alternative to conventional vinyl flooring for aircraft cabins, which is usually supplied in rolls with limited possibility for customisation. F/LIST’s product’s handy tile format, combined with the innovative fastening system proven on our wood flooring, enables similar custom tiling concepts. We’re exhibiting this innovative new product at EBACE for the first time and expect it to mark a revolution in the aircraft flooring market.