Five on the Fly: Jo Kimbell

Five on the Fly: Jo Kimbell

Five on the Fly: Jo Kimbell

WHO: Jo Kimbell

Senior Interior Design Specialist,
Textron Aviation

Wichita, KS


1. You have dedicated nearly four decades to business aviation, predominantly at Beechcraft. What aspects of the company and industry have had you hooked?

Wow, when you put it into decades, it makes me seem old. But time has flown by; I love aviation and this company. We truly are a big family of loyal employees and loyal customers. It is a fast-paced, premium, fascinating market, which has always had a mystique and passion surrounding it. 

The industry has always kept my enthusiasm and affinity growing. I have an inability to stop my mind from realizing new designs. It is like a rush of adrenaline when a new concept comes to life. It starts involuntarily and then becomes an addiction.

2. Can you describe your current role and responsibilities at Textron Aviation?

I am the senior interior designer for Beechcraft turboprops and pistons, and now the new Cessna Denali. In this position, I meet with all customers under those categories to help guide them to the successful interior for their aircraft. 

I also participate in new product development for these products. This involves working on cross-functional internal teams with industrial design, engineering, supply chain management, manufacturing and sales.

3. How has the aircraft interiors sector evolved since you first entered the segment?  

Over the last 38 years, I have observed a number of trends in aircraft design. The most prominent is the liberal use of a variety of materials such as leathers, silks, platings, custom carpets, rich wood finishes and most recently “green initiatives.” The only boundaries are really those imposed by federal aviation regulations. However, we can still be very creative in working to satisfy customer requirements while meeting the necessary standards, which can lead to exciting new products.  

Another evolution is our need to stay connected through electronics. We must design and incorporate useful technology into our onboard flying offices.

4. In your position, you help set the tone for a customer/passenger’s entire in-flight experience. Can you walk us through what key factors are considered going into each design? 

I maintain a customer-centered approach to design. How is the aircraft going to be used? Who is flying onboard? What are the primary missions? Will it be flown for personal or corporate use? What is the projected length of ownership? These are all questions to be determined before we start selecting interior materials. 

To make the most efficient use of the space, we must pay attention to how the passenger will feel in the air. Interiors should be soothing, with rich accents and tones that express the customer’s individuality while being mindful of trends and design for longevity.

5. You were the lead designer on the new King Air 350i King Ranch edition. What was the inspiration behind this unique design/partnership? 

We wanted a combination of rugged comfort with refined precision. Although the interior was designed to be a “workhorse,” it has the beauty of a thoroughbred. We wanted to appeal to farm and ranch, construction, manufacturing and the engineering sectors of business. I think we accomplished this and more judging from the level of interest we’ve seen from the market. 

King Ranch has been a great company to work with on this special interior. We were able to gain a lot of insight and inspiration from our meetings together in addition to our visit to the Ranch. There simply is no other place like it. 


About the Author

Leave a Reply