Christi Tannahill

At Textron Aviation, we strive to determine what is best in terms of performance, design, and functionality

Interview with Christi Tannahill, Textron Aviation’s Senior Vice-President Customer Experience

Who is Christi Tannahill, and what is the most important aspect of your role?

I have dedicated the majority of my career to customer service and support. Prior to my current role at Textron Aviation, I held the position of senior Vice-President of turboprop aircraft and interior design. In this role, I oversaw the development of our popular turboprop platforms and led the interior design team. I assumed the position of senior Vice-President of interior design and engineering in 2016. Currently, as senior Vice-President of Customer Experience at Textron Aviation, I am responsible for the interior design and engineering functions across the entire product lineup of the company.

I am married, with 3 children, and a very proud mother. It’s wonderful to be a proud mother, especially when your children have achieved significant milestones in their education. Having two graduates from college, one from Law school, and one currently in junior high school is a great accomplishment.

Each of my children’s educational journeys is unique and represents their individual efforts and paths to success. As a parent, I have played an essential role in supporting and guiding them along the way. I continue to encourage and nurture my children as they progress through their education.

One of the things I love about my job is that I always say I have the best job in the company. I have the opportunity to work closely with customers throughout the entire process, from market research to delivering the airplane. My responsibilities include marketing events like EBACE and overseeing the organization of these events.

I am also involved in designing both the interior and exterior of our products. It’s a rewarding experience to meet with customers even before they become our customers and then deliver the airplane to them when they take delivery. I am fortunate to have an amazing team that consistently performs exceptionally well.

However, the best part of my job is the ability to build relationships with customers, starting from the interior design phase and listening to their needs all the way through to delivering the final product.

Christi Tannahill & Christian Octavian Frasin

How do you balance the need for aesthetics and functionality in the interior design of Textron Aviation’s aircraft, while maintaining a focus on customer experience?

That’s a great question.

The customers’ visionary board is extremely valuable because it allows us to address their needs effectively. When our customers become part of the team, they have the opportunity to share their preferences without any limitations. They communicate everything they desire to have in the airplane.

For example, I often discuss the idea of having a couch in the cabin as a differentiating factor. However, we also maintain transparency by informing them about the potential cost and additional weight associated with their requests.

This open dialogue is essential for making informed decisions. We utilize the information provided by the customers to understand their priorities. They may quickly realize that certain costs or added weight are not favorable to them, but they acknowledge the importance of certain aspects. Even when dealing with a diverse customer base and customer advisory board, we strive to determine what is best for the airplane in terms of performance, design, and functionality. The feedback provided by our customers ensures that we align our efforts with their desires accurately.

What role does customer feedback play in shaping the interior design and engineering decisions for Textron Aviation’s aircraft?

It plays everything in it! Customers played a significant role in the design of our aircraft. Their input and feedback were invaluable in shaping the final product. By involving customers in the design process, the company ensured that the aircraft catered to their needs and preferences. This customer-centric approach allowed for a more tailored and satisfying experience for those who would eventually be flying in the aircraft. The collaboration between the company and customers demonstrates a commitment to creating products that meet and exceed customer expectations.

In order to ensure the best outcome, we involve the customers in the design process right from the beginning. Prior to finalizing the design of the airplane, we invite a group of customers from the advisory board to provide their input.

Cessna Citation Ascend

We present them with an empty airplane, devoid of furniture or any interior elements, and ask them how they envision it. We conduct evaluations with people inside the aircraft, testing the layout and gathering their feedback. We listen attentively to their suggestions and make adjustments accordingly. This iterative process leads us to the final result, which you can see today in the Cessna Citation Ascend. The entire design is based on the valuable feedback we receive from customers and pilots.

It’s crucial to consider the comfort of the pilots in the cockpit and the importance of amenities. Additionally, we pay attention to the practical aspects for mechanics and maintenance. For instance, while having a luxurious interior, such as the stone floor in this airplane, is appealing, it’s equally important to ensure that it can be easily accessed for maintenance purposes. Therefore, we prioritize feedback from all perspectives involved in flying and maintaining an aircraft.

What steps do you take to stay updated to the latest trends and advancements in interior design and engineering and how do you apply them to Textron Aviation’s products?

We are fortunate to have a highly skilled team of industrial designers and engineers who possess the ability to envision the future. When it comes to creating, developing, and designing an airplane, it’s not a process that happens overnight. Therefore, we collaborate closely with suppliers and technology companies. We actively participate in various technology conferences to gain insights into what the future holds and explore how we can integrate those advancements into our aircraft designs today. By staying connected with the latest technologies and innovations, we strive to ensure that our airplanes are at the forefront of the industry.

Textron Aviation

What are the novelties that Textron Aviation presents this year at EBACE?

Textron Aviation proudly presents the Cessna Citation Ascend, the latest addition to the renowned 560XL series, which brings a host of enhancements and advancements. This jet is meticulously designed to surpass expectations and deliver outstanding performance. The cabin offers a luxurious and comfortable experience, while the cockpit is equipped with modern amenities (synthetic vision and satellite cockpit voice and data transceivers). 

The thing passengers will notice the most is the flat floor. This may sound like a small improvement, but it is significant. The flat floor is a game changer when it comes to comfort. The design gives passengers more room to swivel their seats, stretch their legs and comfortably move around the cabin. The aircraft also has larger windows, wireless cabin controls, Gogo US Avance connectivity as standard, all LED lighting and much more.

One notable feature of the Citation Ascend is its improved fuel efficiency and increased range, allowing for longer flights with fewer stops and maintenance intervals. This is made possible by the implementation of new dual-channel, FADEC-controlled engines. The engine features Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) technology that integrates the new auto-throttle technology within the aircraft. The D-spec can operate on blends of fifty percent sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). These engines not only provide greater fuel efficiency but also deliver enhanced thrust, resulting in a truly high-performance aircraft.

The flight deck of the Ascend is built with both the present and future in mind, featuring Garmin® G5000® avionics. This advanced system incorporates the latest software and hardware, ensuring pilots have access to cutting-edge technology for improved navigation and situational awareness. The inclusion of an auto throttle equipped flight deck further reduces pilot workload, promoting smoother operations and an overall enhanced flying experience.

The Citation Ascend is the new midsize executive jet within the successful 560XL series that can seat up to twelve passengers. With only four passengers, the range is 1.900nm/3.519km. Its new fuel-efficient engines contribute to the extended range, making it a reliable and efficient choice for business travelers seeking optimal performance.

The customers will experience the pinnacle of innovation and performance with the Cessna Citation Ascend – a jet that embodies the future of aviation.

Cessna Citation Ascend

What was the most challenging request coming from one of your clients, regarding the interior design, shifting away from typical private jet interior?

One of the most challenging aspects is meeting the unique and specific design requests of our customers. However, we have an exceptional team that excels at finding innovative solutions to fulfil their desires. Sometimes customers may request a material that matches their luxury vehicle or yacht, but aviation has strict authentication processes in place. It’s important to strike a balance between meeting customer expectations and ensuring that the materials and technologies used in the aircraft pass the necessary certifications.

While customers may have a particular material in mind, it may not always be feasible or compliant with aviation regulations. Our team works diligently to explore alternative options that maintain the desired aesthetic while adhering to certification requirements. This ensures that any new technology or materials integrated into the aircraft meet the necessary standards.

Finding this delicate balance between meeting customer expectations and adhering to certification processes is a challenge that our team navigates with expertise and creativity. Ultimately, our goal is to deliver a product that satisfies the customer’s vision while ensuring the utmost safety and compliance in the aviation industry.

Cessna Citation AscendInterior

How do you collaborate with external partners, such as suppliers or design agencies, to enhance the interior design and engineering capabilities not Textron Aviation’s products?

Our suppliers play a vital role in our operations and are incredibly valuable to us. From technologies and engines to interiors and materials like veneers, each component is crucial in creating our exceptional airplanes. Therefore, we have established strong relationships with our suppliers to ensure that we stay at the forefront of technology and incorporate the latest advancements into our aircraft.

Collaborating closely with our suppliers is critical for us to design and deliver the remarkable airplanes we produce every day. By working together, we can leverage their expertise and innovative solutions to enhance our products. This collaboration enables us to create cutting-edge aircraft that meet the evolving needs and expectations of our customers.

We recognize the significance of our supplier relationships in our pursuit of excellence. Their contributions in terms of technology, quality, and reliability are instrumental in our ability to design and deliver aircraft that exceed customer expectations. Through ongoing collaboration and partnership, we can continue pushing the boundaries of aviation and maintain our position as a leader in the industry.

What would be your advice to your 20 year old self?

I truly have a passion for what I do. Throughout my journey, I have experienced my fair share of mistakes. However, these mistakes have served as valuable lessons, and I have been fortunate to receive tremendous support from my company, bosses, and mentors.

If I could give advice to my younger self, I would say,

Don’t take yourself too seriously because everything will be alright. Mistakes are inevitable, but it’s how you recover from them that truly defines your character. Surround yourself with exceptional individuals who inspire and support you. 

Building a strong team, including the communication team and everyone I work with, is crucial. I strive to have the best people around me to contribute to my success and to help break down barriers. I also want to be a coach to them, guiding them towards their own remarkable careers. It’s important for me to give back to the community that has given so much to me.

Interview by Rucsandra Mihai – Rhapsody Magazine