A private jet designer shares its experience

Just think about the price per square meter of any dwelling. The higher the price, the more everybody is compelled to exploit it in the most practical and comfort of all way, making it elegant, luxurious, functional. If you are to that a limited space, the need or 2 take advantage of every square inch or centimeter becomes even more evident. Now, if you consider that a $ 10 million light private jet offers less than 20 m² of space, you can reckon a price for square meters that is at least $ 500,000 for any private jet. That’s why private jet interiors are so fascinating, and their designers are so skillful.

A private jet designer shares his job.

A private jet designer who builds $ 250 million airplanes with multiple showers, man-made fireplaces, and walk-in closets shares his job. Stephen Vella is Managing Director of Kestrel Aviation Management, a company specializing in the purchase and conversion of luxury private aircraft. Managing director Stephen Vella and marketing expert Nohl Martin manage projects valued at $ 150 million to $ 250 million. They try to bring customer requests, such as five showers in one jet, into line with the applicable legal requirements and weight limits.
Stephen Vella is the Managing Director of Kestrel Aviation Management. Kestrel Aviation ManagementFive years ago, the story of a Boeing Dreamliner 787 converted into a private jet made headlines around the world. The airliner, which is normally equipped with up to 335 passenger seats, was instead designed for only 40 people. The 604 square meter interior contained walk-in closets, silk-look carpets, a huge washroom with an oversized shower and double sinks, and a cinema-like entertainment program. Noise-canceling technology was even built in to reduce in-flight noise to just 48 decibels, compared to the usual 60 decibels, and reports suggest that the jet cost more than $ 320 million in total and was made by a Chinese billionaire who owns Hainan Airlines based in Haikou, China. He intended to rent the jet out for charter flights.

The VIP 787 was developed by a small, discreet company based in Kirkland, Washington. Kestrel Aviation is the secret weapon of the private jet world and specializes in buying and designing private jets. Managing Director Stephen Vella, who has worked in the aerospace industry for four decades, and Marketing Director Nohl Martin are the only full-time employees who bring in additional employees for individual projects as required. Before the pandemic, sales were $ 1 million to $ 3 million a year, Vella told Insider. Even if sales have declined since then, the company remains profitable.

Here’s a look at their business.

The largest projects managed by Kestrel cost between $ 150 million and $ 250 million
According to Vella, a third of his business goes to very wealthy individuals from around the world and two thirds to governments who commission special machines from him. “Managing a VVIP aircraft project is pretty stressful, so we’re working on a maximum of two at a time,” he said.

The largest project, a 747

The largest project, a 747, the cabin of which cost between 150 and 250 million dollars, was for the government of a country whose name he did not want to reveal on the basis of the confidentiality agreement. “There are a lot of things that go into a government aircraft: proprietary communications, missile defense systems, and defense measures – every government has a different idea of what to put in, so it’s always custom and one-off,” he said.

He rarely works on smaller private jets as the smaller cabins offer very limited customization options. Kestrel’s core business is focused on Airbus and Boeing jets – aircraft that Delta and others use for commercial air travel. The company acts as a link between aircraft manufacturers and customers. On the basis of a brief briefing – how many people the aircraft should carry, the probable flight routes – Vella and his partner prepare an offer and then haggle with Boeing and Airbus, which are based in Toulouse, France.
You buy what is known as a “green” aircraft, which is the industry term for an aircraft with no cabin interior – these aircraft are often painted with a green primer before the exterior is customized.

350 commercial aircraft

Vella plays the two manufacturers offensively and points out that the differences between their two favorite private jet aircraft, the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737, are minimal. In the course of his career he has bought 350 commercial aircraft. “American customers buy Boeing and don’t give Airbus the slightest chance. It’s just part of American nationalism, ”he says. “Large VVIP planes are available in the Middle East.” A ready-to-fly plane – green plane plus cabin and high-speed internet connection – typically costs between $ 115 million and $ 120 million for the popular Airbus A320 Neo. Once the contract is signed, Vella and his team will begin designing the interior while the aircraft body is being built at the two factories. You’ll work with industrial and interior designers to create detailed 3D renderings that meet FAA regulations. A cabin decorator then takes on the interior work under the supervision of Kestrel. The entire process from receiving the request to the commissioning of an aircraft can take up to 36 months, especially because Vella and his team do everything they can to achieve the impossible at an altitude of 11,000 meters.


is a major part of luxury interiors, but it is a major problem. Thick marble slabs are too heavy, but if the marble is cut too thin it can break as the fuselage of an aircraft bends constantly while in flight. Vella’s team therefore uses a method in which the marble is etched into a thin layer and connected to an aluminum honeycomb structure. The resulting material is light, strong and flexible, with minimal risk of cracking. It made its debut on the Chinese plane that hit the headlines. “The huge bathroom at 787 had a vanity unit with two sinks that two people could easily lift. It looked totally like marble, but it was so light, ”said Vella.

The ultimate private jet is a Boeing 747 converted for private use

As Vella explained, he has also worked on some redesigns of a Boeing 747, the popular long-haul wide-body aircraft. The first flight of the Boeing 747 took place in 1969. It was the first aircraft to be named “Jumbo” – the last new 747 will leave the factory in 2022, according to Boeing. “They were late on sale for VVIPs, and some of them were bought by government agencies,” he says. His company has worked on equipping these aircraft as private jets for four different countries.
The interior of a 747 has a usable area of around 420 square meters, so the scope of work is huge – the larger the aircraft, the more complex it is (it doesn’t compare to the scope of work on a 225 square meter Boeing 787). Many of the 747s operating on behalf of the state fly by unrecognized at large airports. “Most of them are undetectable,” he added. “In the Middle East, it is common practice to paint government VIP aircraft the same color as the national airline.”

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