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Mission Impossible

Basel, Completions, Gulfstream, Gulfstream G450, Refurbishment

In her years as a Program Manager with Jet Aviation in Basel, Switzerland, Laura Pawlowski has seen many memorable projects. Some were special because of the unusual technical and logistical challenges that had to be overcome, some for an almost impossible timeline, others for a truly extraordinary design, some for the inspiring teamwork that led to success, and then some for the sheer scope of work that had to be completed. And then there was this one remarkable project that combined all of the above.

The quote for this Gulfstream G450 refurbishment was signed one day prior to the arrival of the aircraft at Jet Aviation’s Basel facility, leaving zero run-up time for a project that normally would require at least six to eight weeks of preparation. As it would turn out over the following days and weeks, nothing about this project would be ‘normal’.

“We are talking about a full cabin refurbishment on a tight timeframe with very little preparation time in advance,” says Laura Pawlowski. “The scope of work was extensive and unusual: Remove the complete cabin to refurbish everything, partially in-house, partially at suppliers’, make the aircraft fly without the cabin to a paint facility for full repaint, fly back to Basel, and install the refurbished cabin – and all with a schedule that left no tolerance for delays or unforeseen challenges,” she adds.

The delivery deadline was set in stone: Sandra Corinna Kinzl, the aircraft’s owner and CEO of SCK Aviation, arranged for the refurbished aircraft to be displayed at the 2023 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE), taking place from May 23 to 25 in Geneva, Switzerland.

It was clear from the very beginning that this could only be achieved with next-level teamwork and a seamless collaboration with suppliers, who did everything they could to support the project in every way possible. But when one of them ran into technical difficulties and had to withdraw from the project on short notice, the Jet Aviation team took over his part on top of everything else. Putting in a magnificent feat of additional, unplanned hours, the team soon had the project back on track. The upholstery shop also did an extraordinary job refurbishing all seats in-house, catching up delays with material delivery and manufacturer’s approvals.

But there was yet another surprise challenge waiting for the team. “Just when it looked like we were actually able to make that impossible deadline, we found corrosion on the wing structure during a planned maintenance inspection”, Laura Pawlowski remembers. A temporary fix or having the repair done after EBACE was not possible.

“Our hard work, our problem-solving capabilities and not losing faith in what we are able to achieve as a team really made the difference. Thanks to the skills and experience of our employees and partners we were able to complete this impossible mission successfully.”

A race against time started, and everyone involved in the project knew what was at stake.

“We assessed that we would need additional support from the OEM. The corroded parts had to be remanufactured by a third-party to exact OEM exact specifications and based on a template provided by us. The company did an incredible job, manufacturing the piece in only a few days, while this would normally take a couple of weeks, and the customer actively participated in finding the steel that was required for the repair” says Laura.

“Then, our sheet metal shop came into play, with incredible commitment to working the hours needed, even into overtime. We pulled all the resources we had, managing to do the repair in less than two weeks. Thankfully, we had the OEM on-site to support us. From now on, every day was a working day, every hour was a working hour,” she adds.

These enormous challenges make other extraordinary tasks performed during this project almost look easy in comparison, like operating the aircraft without a cabin for example: “Flying the aircraft to and from the paint facility without having a cabin installed meant that we had to manufacture additional weights and affix them on the seat tracks, bringing the aircraft’s weight and balance back to its flight envelope”, says Laura Pawlowski. “Gulfstream again supported us in the process. Waiting for the necessary approvals from authorities with the delivery date only days away was still a real nail-biter though,” she recalls.

Finally, after an unparalleled effort from everybody involved in the project, the aircraft was ready for delivery with only a slight delay, causing the eye-catching jet arriving ‘fashionably late’ to be displayed at EBACE. The uniquely designed aircraft with its bespoke SCK signature interior immediately created great interest and even purchase offers. Everyone was extremely impressed with the work Jet Aviation had done, especially the customer. “When we asked Sandra Corinna Kinzl if the cabin looked as good as she expected, she answered: ‘No, it’s even better!’,” a happy Laura remembers the conversation.

“This fabulous end result was made possible through a deep collaboration between SCK Aviation and Jet Aviation, and the incredible perseverance, work attitude and attention to detail from the impressive team at Jet Aviation. I can’t wait to start the next overhaul project with Jet Aviation – stay tuned!”, said Sandra Corinna Kinzl.

Laura Pawlowski and everyone working on this memorable project are justifiably proud of what they have achieved: “Our hard work, our problem-solving capabilities and not losing faith in what we are able to achieve as a team really made the difference. Thanks to the skills and experience of our employees and partners we were able to complete this impossible mission successfully.”

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