Growing Success in Singapore
In just four years, Flying Colours has grown its Singapore business from fixing scratches and removing stains, to full cabin refurbishment. With co-located Bombardier expanding, General Manager Paul Dunford is looking forward to a busy 2019
Flying Colours Corps celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The family-run business became an MRO and interiors specialist in 1989, having started as an aircraft painting outfit before moving into aircraft sales. Still headquartered in Peterborough, Ontario, it acquired a St Louis, Missouri facility in 2009 and opened another, within the Bombardier Seletar Airport service centre, in 2015.
The company is renowned for the quality of its cabin work and to ensure its high standards were maintained, the Singapore unit opened with a mix of Canadian and local talent, as Paul Dunford, General Manager Singapore, explains: “Originally the team was a mix of recruited local and experienced Canadian Flying Colours staff. To support training the new Singapore recruits spent time in the Canadian facility, taking three months intense instruction with our full interiors team.
“Four Canadian senior technicians joined them on their return, supporting the facility’s opening and inaugural months of operation. Today the 22-strong team comprises mainly regional recruits, although two of our Canadian colleagues chose to set up home in Singapore and we are pleased to have retained them at the facility.”
Flying Colours Singapore was always imagined as a centre of expert cabin refurbishment and repair to complement Bombardier’s MRO facility and today, Dunford says its workscope covers: “…a wide range of interior needs, serving a customer-base of private individuals, corporate flight departments and charter fleets. Over time, the number and size of projects flowing through the workshop has increased. Originally, we received requests for minor repairs – scratches in woodwork, stain removal on credenzas, soft furnishing fixes, or small component replacements – but now we’re asked to re-veneer entire cabins, completely reupholster seats and modify configurations. In fact, over the last year alone we’ve completed two full and three partial cabin refurbishments on site in Singapore.
“The team is also undertaking more cabin touch-ups and repairs to improve aircraft value for owners looking to sell. And we’re seeing higher demand for interior changes from new owners wishing to maintain the asset’s value, plus increased general interior maintenance.”
As word of the quality of work emerging from Flying Colours Singapore continues to spread, Dunford says: “We have a strong portfolio of customers and we are continuing to grow in the region; in 2018 we completed more than 60 projects. Some clients worked with us before we had a presence in Singapore, and would fly their aircraft to Canada, others are brand new to us. Most come via Bombardier, which is managing their aircraft maintenance, but we are also building relationships with our own Bombardier customers. They appreciate the time and money saved by having their aircraft repaired in the region by high-quality specialists, as opposed to having to fly it to Europe, the Middle East or the Americas.”
And what of returning customers? “Our cabin refurbishments may be one-off, but we hope that should an aircraft need touch-ups or exchange hands, then the owner will return to us. We are now in our fourth year of operation and beginning to see more repeat customers.”
The close working relationship at Seletar also delivers benefits to Bombardier, Flying Colours and their customers, beyond top notch craftsmanship. “We work with the Bombardier Seletar team to ensure aircraft downtime is optimised. A good example is a cabin refurbishment project we completed last year on an aircraft that came in at short notice. The owner had purchased the pre-owned Global and it needed 120-month maintenance work. We simultaneously refurbished the interior with a full cabinetry refinish, new carpeting, rose gold plating on the metal features, new soft goods, and new galley and lavatory countertops. The seats and divan were reupholstered too.”
The requirements of Flying Colours’ Singapore clients are essentially similar to those using their North American facilities, involving the same types of work. It’s in the execution that the markets tend to differ. “In Asia, red is a lucky colour so we see more of it in the cabin, in soft furnishings or wood colouring. The younger entrepreneurs also like contemporary minimal looks, so we work carefully to accommodate the needs of carbon fibre and other unusual materials, as well as the more traditional styles.”
Bombardier has announced its plans to expand the Seletar facility. Does this mean an expansion for Flying Colours too? Dunford is cautious: “Flying Colours Corp Asia is considering its own expansion plans, in order to best align with our partner’s growth plans in the region. We expect our ‘heavy check’ interior workload to greatly increase with the addition of a larger MRO hangar and exterior paint facility.
“There are some 300 Bombardier business aircraft in Asia and many are close to their 96- or 120-month maintenance checks, which means Bombardier Singapore and Flying Colours Corp Asia are readying themselves to take on an anticipated uptick in aircraft flowing through the facility. We’re in a strong position to support Bombardier and the aircraft owners by minimising downtime with our ability to offer the interior support while Bombardier’s team works on the aircraft.
“Meanwhile, our off-site team is also growing. Sometimes it is more cost-effective to fly our team with a part and special tools to a client’s jet, rather than having them fly the aircraft to us. Owners appreciate this bespoke, onsite service. In cases where we are on a schedule or a job requires specialist knowledge, we fly team members in from North America to supplement our local personnel.”
More space at home
While work in Singapore blossoms, so Flying Colours is also growing its Canadian and US sites. Last October the company announced its intention to build a new hangar at Peterborough. Incorporating a 40,000sqft (3,715m2) paint shop, a similarly sized maintenance/interior work space and two levels of offices for an additional 20,000sqft (1,860m2), the building is due for completion later this year.
Having opened additional space for interior and carpentry work at Chesterfield, St Louis in January 2018, Flying Colours moved into a fifth hangar this January, having taken on its lease last December. Re-equipped with the latest tooling and maintenance equipment, the hangar was immediately occupied by a pair of Globals, in for 120-month maintenance checks. In keeping with the overall Flying Colours’ plan, the St Louis site was looking to swell its employee numbers beyond 200, by recruiting an additional 50 personnel.
Cognisant of the crossover between many traditional craft-based occupations as well as modern electronics and IT industries into MRO and completions, in March Flying Colours held the first in a series of recruitment events at its Ontario base. Employees were on hand to describe their roles, explaining how electrical, carpentry, sheet metal and upholstery skills were in demand, alongside more traditional engineering talent. A further event is planned for St Louis and a Flying Colours’ press release on the subject nods towards the future demands of its Singapore facility, noting: “Flying Colours has operations in …Asia as well, and employees interested in international opportunities may have the opportunity to transfer”.