Fran Hume of Egret Aviation: “Cleanliness of aircraft ”

Cleanliness of aircraft — Most airlines have invested deeply already into new technology with automated spraying machinery onboard as well as changing surfaces to anti-microbial parts that deflect germs and so on, such as on arm rests tray tables and regularly used areas including bathroom seats and surfaces. This WILL remain ongoing. As part of our series about […]

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Cleanliness of aircraft — Most airlines have invested deeply already into new technology with automated spraying machinery onboard as well as changing surfaces to anti-microbial parts that deflect germs and so on, such as on arm rests tray tables and regularly used areas including bathroom seats and surfaces. This WILL remain ongoing.

As part of our series about “The Future Of Air Travel”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fran Hume.

Fran Hume has enjoyed a career from 3 different industries, the Technology Sector, Food Manufacturing and more recently Aviation. Fran enjoys working with startup companies, and has been involved in 3, including her own start up children’s food company over 10 years ago. “You do not have to be an industry expert to be successful. Having passion, enthusiasm and the ability to form business relationships is key to all businesses, and you must love what you do. I have been a CEO of my own business, but I am a salesperson every day”! …. Quoted by Fran Hume.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My husband has been in aviation all his life. I always found it fascinating, as he was largely in Engineering. I had a tour of a 747–400 which was in service once, with no interior panels, and the interior was being completely upgraded. It was absolutely fascinating the miles and miles of cabling etc, that are hidden behind the walls of the cabin. I also had the pleasure of having a tour on the empty aircraft, and in the good old days, flew in the cockpit of a 747 400 from New Zealand to LAX for 4 hours, including landing. It was an incredible experience. I was hooked!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I worked with a major airline on an interior seating upgrade from start to finish. It was the first time I had been involved in an entire fleet change. The general public most likely do not understand the complexity of simply changing seat covers and the seat bottoms. There are many departments in an airline that makes this happen from Engineering, who need to ensure that the new covers and cushions are compliant (for fire or flotation) with the FAA, through to marketing who are obviously responsible for the design, corporate colors, and positioning of logos etc, and being involved in the comfort level for the customer. Then there is a manufacturing process and having to change schedules to ensure the aircraft is on the ground at a particular time to remove old covers and cushions, then replace the new ones. A large team is often required as this process can take hours — depending on the size of each aircraft. Often it is a particular fleet at a time. An entire seat cover change project can take anywhere from 6–18 months… that’s how complex it can be. After working in interiors for years now, I feel the general public, certainly do not understand fully the work processes that go on, simply to change a seat cover, or redesign an interior of any aircraft.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Following an order for my first aircraft interior I was invited to visit the aircraft on the ground at the airport, it was after midnight when the aircraft was parked. As I hadn’t met these particular people before, I decided to wear a skirt suit and heels. I was expecting a gate ramp to walk onto the aircraft.

We had to walk across to the aircraft at the gate, and up metal steps… Horrified, I did my best, but my shoe heel got wedged in the metal stair half-way up, and while trying to release it, my skirt blew up in the wind and showed everyone behind me a view of my underwear! My lesson was, wear trousers and flat shoes when visiting aircraft!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

When I joined aviation from a technology background, I knew little about the aviation industry. I consider myself a salesperson, and my motto has always been, be HONEST! If I didn’t know the answer to a question, I always suggested I would find the correct answer or solution and get back to people with the correct answer. The industry can be very complex. You are respected more when you say you don’t know, or you can’t, rather than saying you do and you can, and you find you are wrong. In aviation, it is often time critical, I would never take an order I could not fulfill, or make a statement I knew was wrong.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My husband of course. He has been in the industry over 35 years. He is my “daily dictionary” or “Information Center” for things I don’t know or want to check. I go to him all the time with technical questions or to find answers I need. He has been my information rock and has shown me many things, such as how to fit seat covers, where certain parts fit on an aircraft, and he has always been an interior and wide-bodied expert, so his knowledge covers literally every part of an aircraft big or small. He fully supported my career change, and I can’t thank him enough for sharing his knowledge.

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I wouldn’t say I affect the world however; I have encouraged many people to enter aviation, have recommended people for jobs, and encouraged my friends son to get himself an A&P license as he loved taking things apart and had never considered aviation. My husband helps him too. Last year he entered an A&P School, and with the pandemic, he was allowed to carry on online, so it worked out well for him. Now of course, we can recommend him to people we know as an excellent student, so we certainly played a part in kicking off his career. He LOVES it. Years ago, I started a children’s healthy food company, I was successful nationally, and created a recipe for healthy children’s sausages. The concept made its way to England and our company at the time came 2nd place for innovation in children’s food and packaging at an international food show in Paris. I have always had a personal interest in food concepts, especially for children.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Aviation and Air Travel industries?

I started a small business during COVID-19, which produced PPE Seat Covers for aircraft and transportation. I have passed this onto a friend to manage this now, as I was offered the opportunity to manage the USA office for Egret Aviation and set up their USA operation in Dallas. Egret Aviation are the No2 supplier for galley equipment globally. Egret manufacture galley equipment such as meal carts and products for aircraft galleys etc. The airlines use all these products daily and there is always a need for them. Egret have designed very lightweight products as airlines always consider weight for fuel savings. In addition, I have implemented a new initiative, and have put in place a lease initiative given the cash crisis many airlines have faced during COVID. Egret Aviation are the first company to do this for galley equipment, and we are just getting started. I am very excited about our future.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing these innovations?

Cash flow for many airlines who lost billions of dollars during the crisis. We want airlines to know, they can still have access to the products they need, and get them immediately without having to spend ANY money as they enter our lease program. We also stock in USA, unlike some of our competitors.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

I know for a fact, from customer feedback, a number of our competitors struggle to get equipment to customers within 3–6 months, unless ordered well in advance. Others cannot produce spare parts on time for repairs either. Egret’s lease program also includes a service contract where we will SWAP a damaged piece of equipment, so there will be no waiting for repairs either. Our focus is on ensuring our customers always have the equipment they need with a CAPEX reducing option, and a 145 Repair Station in USA with our partner Aereos Interior Solutions with locations in Dallas and Miami for this service.

Are there exciting new technologies that are coming out in the next few years that will improve the Air Travel experience? We’d love to learn about what you have heard.

Innovations in this industry are constant. Especially interiors where airlines focus on customer needs and comfort, especially for long haul. Some airlines are considering onboard mini kiosks where customers can purchase snacks on board, and can help themselves, from mini vending machines. I haven’t seen one on board, however, I have noted the concept. Other suppliers to airlines are also designing a barrier between seats since COVID. Personally, I don’t like this idea, first it becomes less personal, and may reduce the width of the seat space for larger people. My thoughts are, perhaps these screens may also be detrimental to exiting the aircraft in an emergency situation? That comment is just my own opinion.

As you know, the Pandemic changed the world as we know it. For the benefit of our readers, can you help spell out a few examples of how the Pandemic has specifically impacted Air Travel?

Quite frankly, I think fear. Unfortunately, many journalists write articles before checking facts. I think the media both in print and TV have instilled many people with fear that travel is something you should NOT do. Some media outlets have made people panic. It has taken a while, however, many travelers are starting to understand how much money airlines have invested in safety and cleaning measures, and are starting to return to the skies. It is important to get the correct information to people, on how safe traveling on aircraft actually is. There are HEPA filters onboard which change the airflow every 2–3 minutes, and these filters are designed specifically to reduce and expel germs, including COVID, and keep the air clean and comfortable for all. In addition, the airline industry as a whole have engineered new coverings and anti-microbial surfaces on seat parts to reduce germs. Most airlines also deep clean aircraft interiors daily. There is more chance of contracting COVID at the supermarket. Whilst this is my own opinion, I am not an expert in this field, but I am very aware of the investment the airlines have made to ensure safety on board. I also travel weekly and have continued right through the pandemic with no issues or illness what-so-ever.

Can you share five examples of how the Air Travel experience might change over the next few years to address the new realities brought by the Pandemic? If you can, please give an example for each.

I will rate these in importance:

Cleanliness of aircraft –

Most airlines have invested deeply already into new technology with automated spraying machinery onboard as well as changing surfaces to anti-microbial parts that deflect germs and so on, such as on arm rests tray tables and regularly used areas including bathroom seats and surfaces. This WILL remain ongoing.

New Seat Configurations

Some airlines are still keeping the middle seat empty, to make sure their customers feel safer. Many designers are already changing interior concepts for the same reason. I believe you will see new seat developments (I have seen some) that are quite amazing. Airlines want to ensure their customers feel comfortable and safe, as well as it being a pleasant environment for customers who travel regularly and on long haul.

Catering Changes

Many airlines are not supplying meals on board currently. I mentioned earlier about onboard catering kiosks, you may see this adopted in the near future. A number of airlines already hand drinks and snacks as you enter, which is ok for now, but certainly not as glamorous as serving at the seat. I have ideas myself how this could be changed.

Replaceable Parts / High Use Areas

I believe airlines may look towards providing re-useable and disposable items as we move into future travel. I believe he airlines are so heavily invested in their clean programs now, it will always continue. There are many concepts for these, and new ideas are coming out constantly. I think disposable will be the way to go eventually. Although it needs to be thought about more, because of the waste it can create and the need to be recyclable or bio degradable. This will be an ongoing conversation for many.

Our Own Concept

My husband and I have come up with an idea which we are having designed at the moment. I believe it would solve two issues one for the airline and keeping passengers safety in mind at the same time with COVID. We can talk again when we have a prototype.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement, that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have also had, and still have; a strong interest in food and nutrition for kids, in fact in New Zealand pre-USA I started a healthy food company, specifically for kids, as I mentioned earlier. It started with readymade healthy children’s meals for schools and eventually went into retail stores. It was a success and eventually we sold it and came to USA. My son is a golfer and earned a golf scholarship to college, hence the international move.

After living in USA for the last few years, I have noticed there is a lot of food waste. Having the ability to use up food that is slightly damaged, over produced or just simply thrown away for other means, such as for the homeless, school meals and lower income families would be an amazing concept, and something I would love to get involved in again, outside of what I already do. Such a concept would also create jobs, as I would want it to be a national initiative. As an example, I would use the same set up I had in NZ, whereby I partnered with a food manufacturer, and a distribution company. Itg would need to have a central point (like Texas where I am located), and request for donations from farmers and producers / growers / retailers etc, that would otherwise throw away their products / produce. These could be slightly spoiled vegetables or leftover meat cuts etc. I would create a simply recipe using the meat and vegetables, and puree’ them to a point it would be put into a simple sealed pouch, (becoming an ambient food option). I guess like a chunky soup. It could be eaten cold for people in negative situations such as being on the street, although still a hearty meal and certainly nutritious. The pouch would keep it fresh for few weeks given new technology, and it could be handed to people in need, literally on the streets, food banks and schools, and they could eat directly from the pouch. In fact, it could also become a concept that could be considered at another level to be used on an aircraft and warmed slightly or eaten as is. It would certainly bring down the possibility of germ transfer, as there would be less handling required. To get such a venture (and a worthwhile venture off the ground), it would take a lot of capital…. I would need a partner with very deep pockets who would want to put it to good use as a charity venture.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I typically don’t use social media such as Facebook although I have thought about an Instagram page, maybe I should do that? In fact, I will set that up. I do use LinkedIn as my professional page, and I have many connections and people read my posts, which is nice and encouraging. On LinkedIn, I am — Frances (Fran) Hume.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

You are welcome, I enjoyed reflecting on what I do and why….

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