Canadian Defence Review


June 11, 2014


Bombardier’s special mission

Led by Michel Bourgeois this world class aerospace manufacturer is making a renewed push to market specialized and amphibious aircraft internationally. Here at home FWSAR is major opportunity.

When Canadians talk about “national champions,” that compete toe-to-toe with the world’s best, one of the first that come to mind is Bombardier, whose development of the CSeries aircraft, which had its maiden voyage last year, is changing the way businesses think about travel. The company employs more than 20,000 people in Canada (more than half its global total), bases development of key aircraft in Montreal and bought more than USD $1.5 billion worth of goods and services last year from Canadian supply chains.


Less well known is Bombardier’s defence footprint which includes more than 600 skilled professionals at facilities in Saint-Laurent Quebec, Moose Jaw Saskatchewan and Cold Lake Alberta. In fact, the world class aerospace manufacturer’s Bombardier Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft unit is making a renewed push to market a range of aircraft including the Challenger, Global, Q-Series, Learjet and Bombardier 415 lines, almost all of which have defence applications. Here in Canada, the Department of National Defence will almost certainly be looking hard at several of these aircraft, which have proven track records in international markets, when it comes time decide on a Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) solution.


“The market is about to break open,” says Bourgeois Bombardier Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft’s president. “There are literally hundreds of 30 and 40 year old aircraft sitting around in hangers all around the world that will need to be replaced during coming years and we want to help companies and nations to do that.”


A three-prong strategy

Bourgeois appears to be ideally suited to take on this daunting challenge, which involves tough negotiations in a variety of international destinations. “Most of Bombardier’s business is done outside Canada,” explains this lawyer by training who picked up a master’s degree at McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law. “We now have more than 330 of our special mission aircraft in operation so we are ideally positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.”


During Bourgeois’ more than three decades at the company and Canadair (where he started his career and which Bombardier acquired in 1986) he has seen it all, advancing to president of the amphibious aircraft unit in 2002 and assuming responsibility for specialized aircraft in 2008.


Bougeois’ strategy for taking the division to the next level is three pronged: delivering greater value to cash strapped customers, partnering with major systems-houses to offer more advanced solutions and supplying longer-term product support.  “The 2009 economic crisis, remodelled the defence world that we knew,” says Bourgeois. “Except for a very few countries, governments are no longer able to afford purpose-built military aircraft.”


“We offer them a better value alternative: commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft that are already certified in the civil world, which we can then repurpose to meet their needs in fields ranging from VVIP travel, C4ISR and maritime patrol, to search and rescue, medical emergency and fire-fighting.,” says Bourgeois. “Because of miniaturization, there is no longer a need to design new aircraft, we can simply take existing platforms and load the required equipment onto them.”


A better value proposition

“Governments today are looking for value-propositions,” explains Bourgeois. “So we have teamed up with major global players such as SAAB, Boeing, Marshall, Raytheon, Lockheed and Thales to meet their special requirements.” For example last month ESG, a German aviation and electronic system house, showcased a large model of an IAI-Elta conversion of a Bombardier Global 5000 at a recent air show, to demonstrate a signals intelligence (Sigint) option to the German government.


These days, adding value also often requires providing long-term product support. “We are no longer just making a sale and walking away,” says Bourgeois. “We also work with the client to make sure that he gets the maintenance, repair, overhaul and other help that he needs, as the aircraft moves through the ageing process.”


Key to Bourgeois’ plans are export markets where Bombardier currently draws close to 93 percent of its billings. The company has its eye on opportunities in several countries including Germany, India, Australia, South Africa and Singapore, where it recently announced that it will be adding full service interior refurbishment capabilities, to its service center located at Seletar Airport. The deal, which was done through a teaming arrangement with Flying Colours Corp., was concluded with one eye on the existing 250 or so Bombardier business aircraft currently operating in China, India and other Asia Pacific countries, which could provide a natural base to build on in the years to come.


Indeed Bombardier’s massive global footprint gives it a substantial leg up in providing customers long-term support. Key capabilities including round-the-cock telephone assistance from four customer response centers, parts availability at ten major depots spread out on five continents, personalized delivery service, 60 maintenance facilities, cost protection programs and world class training support.


FWSAR: A natural fit

While the Bombardier Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft unit is banking on its export prowess to help boost sales growth during the coming years, the home front remains a key priority. Successes are piling up. In fact the company just announced the sale of two water-bombers to Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec just bought a Challenger for ambulance work.


That said at the federal level the Harper Government has been heavily criticized by many defence players, who complain that they often have to sell their products in foreign markets before the Department of National Defence will look at them.


Bourgeois is quick to jump to the government’s defence. “The new procurement policy, which is designed to support Canadian industry, in part by getting them involved earlier in the process, is a positive development,” says Bourgeois. “We have real hopes that our aircraft will be considered as part of a local solution for the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft program.”


On paper several Bombardier aircraft, which have strong track records in foreign markets, including the Q and Global series, would be ideal candidates for FWSAR. However a major shortfall holding them back is that none have ramp doors. These defence experts say are needed to facilitate the free flow of personnel and equipment, and to make it easier to parachute out of the aircraft.  However Bourgeois isn’t deterred saying that a two aircraft solution, through which Bombardier partnered with another provider, could be an option. Indeed some experts say that Canada’s complex and wide-ranging multi-mission aircraft needs, in an era in which Arctic patrol is becoming an increasing priority, suggest that a multi-aircraft option may be better for all parties involved.


Another opportunity stems from Bombardier’s Military Aircraft Training program, where all Royal Canadian Air Force pilots have at one time studied. These programs which are conducted at DND facilities in Cold Lake and Moose Jaw (where NATO Flight Training Center operations are also based) are currently in the 13th year of a 20 year contract. DND will be gradually rethinking and redefining its training needs in the years to come, which will present Bombardier the prefect opportunity to broaden its service offering.


Looking to the future

How things will play out the future is anyone’s guess, however momentum is good. The recent unveiling of the Global 7000 mock-up has generated considerable interest. In April Bombardier announced that the Learjet 85 had completed its first flight. And late last year, the company delivered its 50th Bombardier 415 “Super Scooper,” - which was also the first sale of that aircraft to the United States.


Success at it parent company, which Bombardier Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft had a significant hand in generating, substantially boosts the subsidiary’s chances going forward. On that score the signs are encouraging. Bombardier Aerospace delivered 238 business and commercial aircraft in 2013, slightly above the previous year’s total. In all the company generated $18.2 billion in revenues during the period.


Better still, Bombardier landed orders for an additional 388 aircraft, despite a persistently tough global economy. This steady backlog of work provides an excellent base from which to build sales and support of Bombardier’s specialized and amphibious aircraft during the years to come.




Sidebar #1:


Name: Bombardier Inc./Bombardier Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft, Aerospace

President: Michel Bourgeois

Contact: Krystyna Hranek, 514-855-6676


Employees: 36,000+, including 20,000+ in Canada (637 defence related)

Defence related facilities: Saint-Laurent, Moose Jaw, Cold Lake

Major opportunities in Canada: Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft, Military Aviation Training

Exports: 93% of sales are outside Canada




Sidebar #2: Bombardier Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft


Learjet 85: The latest version of this long-time performer, which climbs quickly to high altitudes and handles well, is ideally suited to provide aero-medical services, pilot and aircrew training and target towing.


Challenger: This executive transport aircraft is used in a variety of roles ranging from intensive care units to maritime patrol. Clients include the Royal Danish Air Force, the Hong Kong Flying Service and the Korean Coast Guard.


Global 7000, 8000: The Global’s long loiter times at low speeds make this an ideal C4ISR platform, which both the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force have taken advantage of. VIP transport and air ambulance services are also popular uses. 


Q-Series: The Dash 8/Q-Series, one of the most widely-used turbo-prop platforms, accommodates a variety of radar and electro-optical sensors and tactical communications suites. The aircraft, of which there are now more than 1,200 in service, is also used for aircrew training and other defence applications.


Bombardier 415: When things heat up, the Bombardier 415 water bomber, which is the only purpose built fire-fighting aircraft, begins to shine. The aircraft also can serve as a search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime interdiction platform.



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