Canada special: Flying Colours looks to burgeoning business jet completions market in Asia

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In the new markets of Asia and the Middle East, owners like their business jets big and bespoke - large enough to transport entourages over oceans and individual enough to reflect their personality. After all, the last thing you want after you have bought a $50 million aircraft is for it to look just the same as your business rival's.

The idea of the private jet as status symbol is something that suits Flying Colours. The Ontario-based Bombardier completions and maintenance specialist is increasingly turning its attention overseas, as these emerging economies replace North America as business aviation's main customer base. Nine in 10 of its finished green aircraft end up outside its home markets, making Flying Colours a significant export earner for the Canadian aerospace sector.

At the end of last year, the Peterborough company delivered the first of five Challenger 850s earmarked for Chinese customers; four more will be handed over during 2011. "The Challenger 850 is an ideal aircraft for China and we are looking forward to long-term growth in this region," says Flying Colours president John Gillespie. Another Challenger 850 is destined for India, another major growth market.

p50_flying-colours-cl850-china-main-cabin-re.jpg 
©Flying Colours
 One of the Challenger 850s for China

Set up in 1989, Flying Colours employs 280 people, including 100 at a subsidiary, JetCorp, in St Louis, a Part 145 repair station, the assets of which it acquired in 2009.

A recent upgrade of the runway at the adjacent Peterborough airport has made it easier for Flying Colours to accept larger Global aircraft and even, in future, Airbus and Boeing corporate jets, a limited but potentially highly lucrative segment the company has yet to break into.

Globals are part of Flying Colours' "growth strategy", says Gillespie. The firm's versatility was on show last year when it installed in a Global 5000 for an unnamed client a "stone floor"- in reality a 2.5mm (0.1in) layer of granite laid over a lightweight backplate - in the entry/galley area and two lavatories.

The company has also had some success in marketing refitted second-hand Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets, with about 10,000 cycles, as Execliners, delivering eight since 2006. Sales then slumped in the downturn but "interest is back up in the past six months", says Gillespie.