EVA takes a look at the capabilities of Bombardier’s new Biggin Hill Service Centre and talks to Flying Colours about the demands of Global heavy maintenance
On 18 May this year, Bombardier inaugurated its London Biggin Hill Service Centre, occupying a hangar of approximately 52,000sqft on the historic airfield. Presiding over the inauguration ceremony, Bombardier’s Vice-President & General Manager Jean-Christophe Gallagher described the airport as a ‘strategic location for business aviation operators’. His confident claim was based on solid foundations. As Mike Ainsworth, General Manager at the Service Centre explains, the facility was already primed and prepared to begin work immediately.
“In March 2017 we received certification from the UK Civil Aviation Authority for maintenance of Learjet 70, Learjet 75, Challenger 300, Challenger 350, Challenger 600 series, Global 5000 and Global 6000 aircraft; FAA certification followed in August 2017 and UAE GCAA CAR 145 certification in October.
“Bombardier’s London Biggin Hill Service Centre is a full maintenance, repair and operations facility and it covers the complete Bombardier business aircraft product portfolio. It’s fully equipped to perform scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, as well as modifications and avionics installations across the Learjet, Challenger and Global ranges.”
At the time of writing, early in November, the facility had recently completed its first nose-to-tail service package, work that it combined with an STC installation. “We performed the extensive maintenance package on a Global 6000,” Ainsworth says. “At the same time, we completed the industry’s first Ka-band high-speed internet with Rockwell Collins Airborne Data Router [ADR] retrofit. It was also the first Ka-band installation at the Biggin Hill Service Centre, demonstrating our engineering expertise in complex integrations. We’re thrilled to deliver this level of service to our customers so soon after opening our hangar doors.
“Our STC capability, including Ka-band and Pro Line 21 installations, means we can offer operators the chance to optimise their aircraft’s downtime by pairing a Ka-band fit with a scheduled maintenance check and other important upgrades, including ADS-B Out.”
Indeed, among the 40 plus maintenance events Biggin Hill has completed since May, during a 96-month inspection on a Challenger 605 it also installed a Pro Line 21 Advanced integrated avionics system. And if customers require paint or interior finishing, Ainsworth says: “We work closely with RAS, a company based at Biggin Hill, providing paint and interior services as we need them.”
There’s no doubting the extent of the London Biggin Hill Service Centre’s capability, nor the standard of its work, but isn’t it true that customers might get high-quality, properly documented maintenance for their Bombardier aircraft at other facilities? Ainsworth responds: “Bombardier knows the aircraft – we designed and manufactured it – that’s why we’re best positioned to support and maintain it. From training to parts, inspections to upgrades, our all-encompassing knowledge allows us to continually add value to the ownership experience. Our certified, factory-trained technicians work exclusively on Bombardier aircraft. They’re in constant contact with experts across the organisation and have access to the engineering, tooling and processes used in the design and build of new aircraft.
“And, of course, Bombardier wrote the book on its aircraft and continuously updates its documentation. Access to its technical publications is available through a range of documentation services, while the SmartPubs viewer, Bombardier Flight Deck app and SmartFix Plus troubleshooting tool enable customers to access comprehensive flight and maintenance information in the format that suits them best.”
Peterborough, Ontario-based MRO specialist Flying Colours has a long and very proud association with Bombardier, including completions on behalf of the OEM. Speaking to EVA at NBAA, Executive Vice President Sales & Marketing Sean Gillespie said the company is seeing more work on the Bombardier aircraft as they become due for major checks. “Some of the original Globals are hitting ten-years, so their 120-month, ten-year or 8C checks are becoming due. We’ll see a cycle of them coming through over the next couple of years – we’ve got two in and more coming, Bombardier is working on some and I know other
competitors are too.
“These are heavy maintenance checks; the airplane’s effectively coming apart for a detailed inspection of everything – we take all the panels off, take the windscreen out, take the tail to pieces and remove the interior so we can get behind all the panels. It’s labour intensive work in which we’re checking for corrosion and other issues, and performing maintenance. It’s also a good time for owners to renew the paint and select cabin upgrades. With the airplane coming apart, the paint really needs to be done afterwards, and it makes sense to do some cabin work since everything’s coming out anyway.”
Such is the work’s extent that Flying Colours has invested in new equipment, including a Global tail dock. “It gives the guys easier access to the airplane’s high tail, so they can do the work more efficiently. We’ve installed it at Peterborough, where we do most of the Global work, plus some
Challenger and Learjet business, while St Louis tends to focus on the Challenger 300, 604 and 605, plus the Learjet line.”
He says there’s a similar check situation with the Challenger, although the model has been around a little longer and the work has been flowing for a few more years. Regardless of type, maintenance schedules are set by month, as Gillespie explained: “There’s a 60-month check that equates to about half the work of a 120-month schedule, then 30-month and 15-month checks; a 15-month check takes around four days.” These schedules work for most corporate operators, but those using their jets more intensively may consume their months more quickly and revert to alternative schedules.
Flying Colours has developed a particular expertise for modifying ex-airline CRJ regional jets into corporate and business aircraft and, according to Gillespie, these have interesting maintenance demands: “They come to us on a high-utilisation maintenance programme – a ‘HUMP’. We modify them and put them on a ‘LUMP’, a low-utilisation maintenance programme.
“It means we have to go through the paperwork and reset the airplane’s life going forward. As airliners these jets might fly 90 or 100 hours a month, but as corporate jets they’re likely to accumulate 20 or 30 hours at most. It means all the checks and inspection intervals change. We go back and look at what’s been done and how it’s been done, then create a programme of maintenance sequencing going forward.”
There’s constant dialogue between Flying Colours and its customers as the MRO works to efficiently schedule their maintenance requirements. If their aircraft is nearby for a couple of weeks and due a check in the next three months, for example, Flying Colours might suggest doing the work a little early to avoid them needing to come back. Gillespie reckons this proactive approach, plus the company’s philosophy that getting the smaller jobs right inevitably leads to winning the bigger ones, is the secret to its success. “You want to stay for the life of the airplane. The customer might sell it of course, but then you start again with the new one.
“We’ve always done MRO at our Peterborough and St Louis facilities, but now we’re doing more heavy maintenance on the Bombardier products. The ‘refurb’ market is also busy, because people are getting good prices on used airplanes. We see customers coming to use with older Globals that have major checks due and they’re looking to refurbish as well.”
Like Bombardier’s London Biggin Hill Service Centre, Flying Colours is equipped to respond to unscheduled maintenance events, from scratches and dents to more major work – a recent ground incident resulted in a repair that included a replacing a flap and a number of panels. “It’s sporadic work by nature,” Gillespie said, “and while both centres offer fixed-plan maintenance, I reckon St Louis does more of the drop-in work, because it’s a hub for business aviation. There are lots of fractionals and one-off operators flying through there and they’ll call on us because we’re right there, on the field.”
As a business looking to turn a profit, Flying Colours is inevitably keen to encourage every customer with a jet in for heavy maintenance to consider additional interior work and, again similar to Bombardier’s Biggin Hill operation, new avionics and connectivity packages. On the other hand, many customers come in actively seeking advancements alongside their maintenance packages and Gillespie was delighted to report: “It’s rare that customers do nothing. We’ve recently added the Honeywell JetWave tail mount Ka-band installation to a couple of airplanes that were in for maintenance. We buy the equipment as a kit and install it under Bombardier’s STC.”
As well as investing in new infrastructure in Peterborough, Flying Colours is expanding its St Louis operation in terms of real estate and capability. While building work continues at the site, in October the company completed its first Challenger 300 Pro Line 21 Advanced avionics suite installation. Including ADS-B Out provision to meet mandatory requirements that go live in January 2020, the modification represents an important addition to Flying Colours’ service portfolio. And, of course, it was completed while the aircraft was in the hangar for heavy maintenance.