Amsterdam’s central location

Accustomed to the vastness of Canada, Bombardier appreciates the central location of their new service centre. Over three-quarters of their clients based in Europe are able to reach Bombardier Aerospace’s newly opened European Service Centre by plane within an hour. Now they can bring their Bombardier jet to the hangar for routine maintenance in the same amount of time it takes to visit a garage equipped to service the luxury car equivalent.

An advantage like this makes a huge difference in the unique world of general aviation. In the aviation sector, the quality and accessibility of the after-sales service is a deciding factor. The type of aircraft chosen is determined in part by the availability of a skilled and reliable service outlet, preferably operated by the maker of the aircraft in question. In Europe, up until now Bombardier has worked with a network of authorised service facilities to service its Learjets, Challengers and Globals. However, now that the European market is becoming more and more important for Bombardier, the company really needs to boost its presence here. Consequently, they have set up our own service hub for Europe at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Active support

With the active support provided by the airport management company Schiphol Group, The Schiphol Area Development Company (SADC), the surrounding municipalities and the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, Bombardier was able to begin operations at its hangar within a mere couple of months after they had decided to set up shop here. They have enough room and facilities at this location to offer the full range of Bombardier service and repairs, complete with additional training and classes.

Eastward expansion

The demand for jet aircraft for business or private use is increasingly shifting eastward. In light of the gradual saturation of the North American market, manufacturers of these types of aircraft are shifting their focus to companies and wealthy private individuals in Europe and the Middle East. Bombardier Aerospace is following suit. The aviation branch of the Montreal-based transport group has established a strong starting position in the general or business aviation sector. The Learjet and Canadair acquisitions have turned the company into a major player in the sector. In order to maintain – and ideally expand – this position, Bombardier must reinforce its presence in tomorrow’s growth markets. The company expects that the total fleet, which is currently 500 Bombardier aircrafts, will increase to 650 in our focus area in five years. And that is a relatively conservative estimate.

With the optimistic growth expectations in mind, it made sense for Bombardier to establish a service and repairs location for general aviation in Europe. Bombardier started its search with no less than 40 potential sites. Each and every one of them met basic requirements: an airport in the immediate vicinity with the necessary takeoff and landing options and room for its own service centre.

Next, they identified 15 criteria in order to narrow down the list of candidates. During this stage the various sites were compared in terms of fiscal appeal (which is very important in a capital-intensive business such as Bombardier’s), for example, along with the quality of the know-how and expertise available at the location, and whether there were other companies in the area that could potentially support them.

The intangible criteria were also extremely important. At an international company like Bombardier, English is the official language, so they needed to choose a location where English is the medium of communication. Also, Bombardier is still very much a family business at heart. The corporate culture is a significant distinguishing feature, and under no circumstances do they want to see that compromised. So when deciding on a location it is very important for Bombardier that people acknowledge and understand their values.

Eventually, the list was narrowed down to two locations that withstood rigorous vetting: a site nearby a London airport, and a site at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The deciding factor was that Bombardier could not get any closer to its clients than Schiphol, as well as a sense that they would have more freedom to really be themselves here. This is quite interesting, considering they are a company with one foot firmly planted in English traditions.

First round of maintenance orders

Less than a year after settling on a location, Bombardier Aerospace’s Dutch operation commenced with the first round of maintenance orders at the temporary site, while training programmes for aircraft mechanics have started.

Other businesses in and around Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are also excited about the Bombardier European Service Centre’s debut. According to SADC’s Joep Schroeder, it is a very welcome addition to the local aviation cluster. “Traditionally Schiphol-East has been an attractive business location particularly for aviation-related activities. We have a wide variety of companies here involved in repairs, assembly and maintenance, training and education, as well as consulting and financing. The goal now is to strengthen the relations between the various links in this chain and create a community that produces more added value for the member companies. 

The steps towards realising this master plan, which has been dubbed Schiphol Aerospace Exchange, include a new terminal for general aviation along with new headquarters for KLM subsidiaries Martinair and Transavia. The arrival of Bombardier is the latest significant reinforcement of the economic structure of the aerospace cluster.” Bombardier has drawn up ambitious growth plans for the years ahead. The company is here to stay.

Source: NFIA, October 2014.