Dassault has expanded its customer support offering through an expansive MRO acquisition programme, an effort that’s already winning awards
A casual conversation, perhaps two years ago, with a small group of Falcon operators and owners revealed a unanimous opinion that Dassault built beautiful, high-performance aircraft that were delightful to fly and fly in. But there was also a consensus that when issues arose – and from time to time they do with any complex machine, regardless of who builds it – customer service wasn’t always as smooth or efficient as they would have liked.
A similar conversation today might reveal the same story of adoration and passion for the jet, but with similar high appreciation of the service package behind it. Helped by a series of dramatic, rapid acquisitions, Dassault has transformed its service offering.
During the first half of 2019, the company bought ExecuJet’s global maintenance business, TAG Aviation’s European maintenance network and RUAG’s MRO operation in Geneva and Lugano. At the same time, its spares inventory was expanded with the opening of a new spares warehouse, and delivery times reduced as technical staff were positioned closer to customers and their destinations.
The effect has been especially profound in the Middle East and Asia, although Dassault acknowledges the acquisition of ExecuJet in particular enable it to expand its company-owned MRO network not only in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, but also Africa and Europe. ExecuJet’s Dubai facility is expected to become a major hub for Falcon aftersales service in the Gulf and, in addition to these new factory-owned MRO facilities, Dassault continues to operate its existing Authorized Service Centers.
The Middle East MRO network is complemented by a spares distribution centre in Dubai and a technical office in Cairo. Meanwhile, a new spare parts distribution centre close to Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris is ensuring spares are quickly and reliably shipped to Falcon customers in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Far East.
Customers can also call on Falcon Response, where a dedicated Falcon 900 airborne support aircraft is held ready 24/7 to respond to an aircraft-on-ground (AOG) situation, carrying spare parts, tools and ‘Go Team’ specialists; Dassault was the first OEM to offer its support aircraft as alternative lift if required.
Dassault’s customer service excellence has been recognised in Pro Pilot Magazine and AIN operator surveys in which it emerged as top service provider for business jets. Operators cited spares availability, parts cost, speed of AOG service and overall aircraft reliability as the major motivating factors in their decision. Interestingly, all of these, aside from aircraft reliability, had been the bugbears expressed in the conversation two years ago.
Vadim Feldzer, Head of Global Communications for Dassault Aviation Civil Aircraft, is not surprised by these exceptional results. “Dassault Aviation has been investing heavily in customer service for decades. We have more than 2,500 customer service personnel stationed across the globe and have developed a very strong reputation in the marketplace for customer support.”
Those MRO acquisitions have been key and Feldzer explained the policy: “We chose ExecuJet, TAG MRO and RUAG because they had been partners of Dassault Aviation for a long time. They all have an excellent reputation and strong relationships with business jet operators and aircraft manufacturers, plus highly motivated and skilled personnel.”
All three MROs offered services across a range of aircraft from different OEMs and while Dassault has added to their Falcon capabilities, it has not reduced their involvement with other manufacturer’s aircraft. Neither has it enforced any change in identity, so these essentially remain independent facilities, but offering increased levels of Falcon support. “Dassault business jet owners and operators expect a certain level of service from a Dassault-owned maintenance facility,” Feldzer says. “We have been helping the MRO companies we acquired to expand their MRO capability on Dassault business jets, but we kept true to the original branding because these are very strong brands in the business aviation industry. We felt it was important for them to maintain their own distinct identity.
“We maintained the management and personnel at newly branded ExecuJet MRO Services and TAG Maintenance Services; the strength of their management teams and personnel were key reasons we acquired these MRO companies. That said, one of the benefits of having a network of MRO facilities is that each can learn from the others in the network, share the same Dassault elevated standard and expand its capability on Dassault aircraft.
He acknowledges that ExecuJet MRO Services and TAG Maintenance Services have independent expansion plans and will continue to maintain aircraft from other manufacturers, noting: “Non-Falcon customers who rely on these MROs continue to experience a world-class level of service.”
The organisation is slightly different in Europe. “The international RUAG MRO maintenance business we acquired in Geneva and Lugano has been merged with TAG Maintenance Services,” Feldzer says. “It made no sense to maintain two separate MRO brands in Switzerland, especially since both have their main base in Geneva.”
Dassault has always produced dramatic business jets, but it is easy to focus on its more recent ‘X’ products. An important ‘legacy’ fleet remains in service, however, including aircraft right back to the original Falcon 10. Feldzer is keen to reassure customers that those platforms have not been forgotten. “Dassault Aviation actively continues to support Falcon 10, Falcon 20 and Falcon 50 operators around the globe. We maintain spare parts pools for these aircraft and encourage MRO companies and our supply chain to support them. Meanwhile, dedicated Maintenance and Operations seminars, provide regular opportunities for operators of legacy Falcons to meet face-to-face with representatives from Dassault, its partners and suppliers.
Feldzer says among the primary reasons for Dassault acquiring ExecuJet’s MRO business was the strength of its network in Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. “The number of business jets operated in these developing regions has been steadily growing. Some regional business jet owners previously sent their aircraft to Europe or North America for heavy maintenance, but they are now more willing to have the work done closer to their home base.”
And if proof of the availability and quality of MRO service were required, then on 11 December 2019, ExecuJet MRO Services Malaysia announced that it had received US Federal Aviation Administration certification to perform line and heavy maintenance on Dassault Aviation business jets.
Covering the Falcon 2000LX, LXS and EX; Falcon 7X; and Falcon 8X, it recognises that the company’s Subang Airport, Kuala Lumpur MRO facility is audited and certified by the FAA as an approved foreign repair station to carry out maintenance work on US-registered examples of these Falcons.
Ivan Lim, VP MRO Services Asia at ExecuJet MRO Services Malaysia, explained: “Many US-registered business jets fly in the region and we’ve been receiving requests to support them. In the past we’ve relied on our engineers’ personal FAA airframe and powerplant licenses to support them, but it wasn’t ideal because there were certain restrictions. Now we can fully expand our capabilities on N-registered Falcons to cover all line and heavy maintenance checks without those restrictions.”
Lim revealed a few details of the certification: “ExecuJet MRO Services Malaysia has to comply with all FAA regulations in order to be certified as having met its foreign repair station requirements. Audits are carried out by the FAA at least annually and any findings or observations have to be addressed satisfactorily within stipulated timeframes.” He notes that the extension into heavy maintenance will typically involve more complicated work requiring special equipment, including avionics upgrades and airframe repairs.
The facility’s wider offering includes cabin repairs, non-destructive test and aircraft cleaning services – brightwork, polishing and washing. “We’ve carried out various cabin projects, including carpet replacement and veneer repair, among others,” Lim says. “And we regularly upgrade avionics, including ADSB-Out and TCAS, through OEM bulletins and FAA-approved STCs.”
Looking to ExecuJet MRO Services Malaysia’s wider customer base, Lim notes: “We have a solid customer base from across South East Asia, Australia and Greater China, with product coverage for Bombardier, Gulfstream and now Dassault.” As before, we’ll continue serving all our customers, regardless of product.
“We will also continue expanding our market share throughout Asia, focusing on all the aircraft types traditionally maintained, and adding new ones as opportunities arise. Our new ownership provides us with a shareholder that promotes expansion in a controlled manner, which aligns with our previous strategy, so the transition was welcomed and positive. The addition of Falcon aircraft to our capabilities has triggered the next level of growth, which we intend to complement with other aircraft types.
“Dassault ownership provides us with technical and resource advantages when dealing with Dassault products, while the fact that ExecuJet MRO Services Malaysia recently won the Line Maintenance Facility excellence award from Bombardier shows that we are committed to providing the highest level of service excellence to all our customers.”
Dassault’s customer support expansion is clearly delivering. But reaching the top is one challenge, remaining there another. What are its ambitions for the future? Feldzer has no doubt: “Retaining industry leadership in product support is a continuous effort and we will do our utmost to maintain and elevate the standard of customer service we have achieved by offering new innovative services, including more app and training solutions.”