Dassault and its iconic brand of Falcon business jets are expanding in the Middle East with the recent addition of a second service facility in the region. Phil Nasskau speaks to Region Sales and Marketing Director Renaud Cloâtre.
The company has appointed Jeddah-based Saudi Private Aviation Engineering and Maintenance (SPA-E&M) as a line service centre for the family of Falcon business jets, and, according to Cloâtre, it represents a strategic partnership in a very important region.
SPA-E&M’s facility comes complete with two large hangars and 43,000ft2 of space, complete with workshops and storage facilities. Cloâtre said it is in a perfect point geographically to support the region’s growing fleet.
Maintenance aside, the company is also planning to have a simulator in the region by February next year with a CAE Simuflite facility in Dubai. The facility will offer 7X, 900 and 2000 training. “Having the simulator in Dubai is certainly very convenient and helps on the sales side,” he added.
For Cloâtre, support is an important element when selling aircraft. He said: “The Middle East is not a region where you can fire and forget. You have to build trust with the customer.” And it is in that way that he said the company is “dedicated to the region” and looking “to establish a network to cover the region as a whole” with more facilities and people. Although he did say that nothing has been finalised, new centres or people would be added when and where they are needed.
Meanwhile, Dassualt’s flagship 7X is making headway in the region, with it already playing host to seven of the type, the eighth is due to be delivered by the end of the year. The airframer says that, by the end of 2010, there will be around 100 7Xs in service worldwide and that it believes the Middle East will become a very important market for the tri-jet.
Cloâtre said that the company’s goal is to increase orders by 50% on top of what he calls a “strong backlog” by 2013. “We’re not just looking at sales, but also to greatly increase our presence in the region. The greater our presence there, the better it is for the entire family of Falcon business jets,” he said.
But that is not going to come without its challenges, he admitted. “The Middle East is a pretty mature market, however there are a lot of aircraft there that are old and need to be replaced. One of the issues is selling off the old aircraft, but the region is evolving because we are now starting to see more and more demand for real business jet needs.
“Plus the charter market is evolving too. There are some very serious operators in the region and this is a good way for customers to become more accustomed with business jets.
“Naturally, like it is for everyone, the real difficulty is price. The challenging economy and the weakened relationships between banks and potential buyers means it is still a tough time to be selling business jets,” he explained.
Yet Cloâtre is adamant that, in comparison with its competitors, Dassault is “doing quite well”. He attributed this to the fact that the company is “very active in the region” because of its existing presence. “We have got to be the main OEM in the region. And to do this we’re willing to invest, develop and strengthen our position there. We have experience in the region,” he said.
Moreover he sees the way forward by focusing on the region wholly, rather than on specific countries, because he said the whole region is growing proportionally, and that this is why the company is trying to build a focused regional network to help sales and support.
Cloâtre is a firm believer that this year’s MEBA will help boost sales. “It is now a major show in the region for business aviation and we can see the market recovering; there are some signs of it actually picking up. So who knows? Maybe we’ll even sign a few contracts as we show off our 7X,” he said.
Elsewhere in the world the company has added additional support with a new pricing scheme for parts. The scheme consists of its High Volume Discount programme for spare parts and free shipping on core returns. The company said that this is part of a broader effort to “reward customers and further improve the customer service experience”.
The discount programme is based upon a customer’s total annual spare parts purchases that determine the level of discount to qualifying sales the following year. Dassault said it includes three new levels of purchase volume and each has its own discount. This means operators can potentially qualify for higher discounts in the next year.
Additionally, any spares purchased in 2009 are now accommodated under the new discount programme. Purchases of Service Bulletin Kits, exchange parts, tool rentals, documentation and parts purchases through an authorised service centre in conjunction with maintenance are all applicable towards the total annual eligible purchase volume.
“In a challenging economy, where all flight departments are working with smaller budgets, we are working with our customers to keep their costs low through initiatives,” said Jacques Chauvet, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Customer Service.
Plus it is now offering free shipping on core returns back to parts distribution centres. “In addition to a customer’s purchase being applied towards a high volume discount, this programme benefits the customer in two other important ways,” said Chauvet. “The customer saves a direct cost on shipping, but perhaps even more importantly is that prompt returns ensure a fast turnaround time on repairs, and ultimately higher parts availability when the customer needs a critical item. This is really a partnership with our operators that benefits everyone involved.”
While in China the company has expanded its footprint with not only a new regional office, but also an agreement to have an Authorised Service Centre, in China, fully operational by Q2 2011 as it bolsters is presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
The sales office, located in Beijing, headed by Vice President of International Sales Jean-Michel Jacob, is a tactical move by the company to help capitalise on the rising demand for jets in the country. “Firmly establishing Dassault’s presence in China today positions us to serve the needs of its growing business aviation sector with the highest level of support in the years to come,” said Jacob. The Beijing office complements branches in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.
Shanghai is set to become the next part of the service network, Singapore is at present its only service facility, with Dassault signing an agreement with Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Centre at Hongqiao International Airport. The company expects the facility to be fully functional after it receives Part 145 Repair Station Certification from both the US and Chinese authorities, which it expects by April 2011. The centre will have 40,000ft2 of hangar space and an additional 18,000ft2 of workshop and office space. Another 200,000ft2 of land has been reserved for a second hangar in future phases of expansion.
The facility will be authorised to work on the current range of production Falcons and will be designated as a Line Service Centre with line maintenance and A/A+ inspections. It said it expects to expand the capabilities to become a Major Service Centre able to complete C-Checks as the fleet matures.
“Our partnership with Shanghai Hawker Pacific is part of our continual effort to increase our footprint of service in this region for Falcon operators,” said Chauvet. “The benefit will be felt by local and transient operators alike, as the use of business aviation in this dynamic region continues to grow.” Meanwhile, the company said it expects to announce a Beijing-based service centre by the end of 2010.
“The Shanghai Hawker Pacific facility has an infrastructure capable of sustainable growth which gives Dassault an advantage as we plan to increase our support capabilities in this region in step with fleet growth,” said Dean Anderson, Director of Dassault’s Authorised Service Centre Network in the Western Hemisphere.
Dassault plans to house more than $2 million in spares, tooling and equipment at the facility by the end of this year. By the time the doors open, it said there will be eight people dedicated to serving Falcon operators, including a director of maintenance, a quality assurance manager as well as staff dedicated to parts and planning.
A dedicated 7X technician will provide GoTeam support from Hawker Pacific, in Singapore (its other Authorised Service Centre). Dassault said GoTeam can be dispatched on very short notice to an aircraft in an AOG situation and is fully capable of returning an aircraft to service via sign-off from Hawker Pacific’s Singapore Repair Station certificate.