Regional, Rotary, Resurgence

posted on 9th May 2022
Regional, Rotary, Resurgence

Alongside its regular business jet work, Canada’s Flying Colours Corps is seeing a resurgence in interest for regional jet and helicopter conversions, as EVP Eric Gillespie reveals

Today’s hectic market means jet manufacturers, sales brokers, MROs and refurbishment specialists are enjoying busy times. Peterborough, Ontario-based Flying Colours Corp is no exception, offering a full spectrum of MRO, completion and refurbishment options, including a unique Bombardier CRJ200 capability. The company has previously offered Corporate Shuttle and ExecLiner conversions of the regional airliner and has recently seen an uptick in demand.
Eric Gillespie, Executive Vice President at Flying Colours Corp, says requests for information are coming in for pure VVIP ExecLiner conversions, with auxiliary fuel tanks extending range from 2,000nm to 3,000nm, plus aircraft in VIP and medevac configuration, pure Corporate Shuttle, and mixed VIP/Corporate Shuttle. “In the past, requests have predominantly been from private individuals but recently we’ve heard from charter operators and even private equity funds looking to make investments,” he notes.
Although Flying Colours has worked on Embraer ERJ145 conversions, its long association with Bombardier means the primary focus is on the CRJ, especially with so many airframes sitting unused after their withdrawal during the worst of the pandemic. “The airlines are keen to sell them and there are more available than previously. We conduct pre-buy inspections and we’re quickly able to establish when an aircraft is priced correctly and how much time/budget will be needed to complete a full conversion,” Gillespie says. To date, Flying Colours has converted around 30 pre-owned and 15 green CRJ airframes.

Cabin choices
Acknowledging the possibilities of the Embraer ERJ and E-Jet airframes too, Gillespie enthuses: “The great opportunity with a conversion is that the customer can explain their mission needs and share their interior vision. We can then optimise the interior to fit their requirements, working with the template provided by the airframe to deliver a unique new interior every time. The discussion doesn’t necessarily start with what the airframe is. It is more focused on what the customer needs to do and how we can help them achieve their goals.”
After 45 CRJ conversions, Flying Colours has an array of experience and STCs, helping ensure smooth service entry. The Peterborough site is impressive for its workshops and skill base, with cabinetry, upholstery, veneering, design engineering teams and manufacturing all available in-house. It also boasts avionics, maintenance and paint teams, making it a one-stop, one-location shop. When needed, partners are carefully selected according to project requirements.
When it comes to cabin management system (CMS) and inflight entertainment and communications (IFEC) provision, Flying Colours is again highly qualified and capable of integrating a variety of equipment according to customer request. “Our recommended CMS depends on the mission,” Gillespie reports, “but we often select Collins’ Venue, with controls sourced from Alto Aviation.
“We see a lot of North American customers choosing the Gogo Avance L3 or L5 systems as cost-effective connectivity options within the continental range. Our international customers opt for Jet Connex powered by Inmarsat. Connectivity hardware depends on the system, customer preference and our recommendation. For travellers flying internationally on a regular basis in larger cabin aircraft we typically suggest Collins or Satcom Direct systems. We’re increasingly seeing customers of these large airframes opting to have both Ka-band and Ku-band systems installed to ensure there is never any loss of coverage. For the regional jet conversions we anticipate Gogo being the lead connectivity solution.”

On the outside
Painting complete aircraft is a demanding task requiring costly, highly specialised facilities, and many refurbishment and MRO centres prefer to contract the job out to dedicated providers. Flying Colours has a fully equipped paint shop at Peterborough, however, capable of accommodating aircraft up to Boeing 737 or Airbus A220 size. It has been operational for just two years, but has turned out some stunning finishes.
Gillespie explains: “Each design is individual and most are very specific in terms of colours and paint types; more often than not the design is provided by the owner/operator to their personal taste or fleet brand. Our choice of paint supplier is driven by numerous factors, including the aircraft’s condition, which may require more paint preparation. Other considerations include budget, the design, and whether the customer wants special features such as mica/pearl effect or chromalusion.”
The ability to provide full exterior paint, complete cabin refurbishment and MRO defines Flying Colours’ capability at Peterborough, while its dedicated MRO facility in St Louis supports projects as needed. The family-run company works across all types of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, but its unusually close relationship with Bombardier means it is the provider of choice for CRJ200 conversions.