Grob faced several challenges in setting up a global sales and support network robust enough to compete with Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft and Pilatus. Before the SPn, the manufacturer had a small team used to dealing with military customers of its aerobatic trainers, mostly in Europe. Its brand had little traction in the world's biggest business aviation market.

With partner ExecuJet also largely unknown in North America, despite its strong presence elsewhere, Grob opened, in September last year, its own US arm in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, backed by regional sales offices and one independent sales company, Sunwest Aviation in western Canada.

Three partners were enlisted for service, spares and warranty support: Aero Air in Hillsboro, Oregon Landmark Aviation (now Standard Aero) in Houston, Los Angeles and Springfield, Illinois and Stevens Aviation in Denver and Greenville, South Carolina. Grob plans to add more.

Training these centres to repair composite structures presents another challenge, but, says Grob director of customer and product support Hans Doll, the US MRO sector is not completely without experience in fixing non-traditional materials. "A lot of secondary parts, radomes for example, tend to be composite so there has always been some expertise there," he notes. "Also, we are not too different to metal aircraft in that if there is damage to the primary structure, the manufacturer has to provide the repair."

The rest of the world is handled by ExecuJet's operations in Copenhagen, Dubai, Johannesburg, Sydney and Zurich, with Manchester's Ocean Sky Jet Centre responsible for customer support in the UK.

After holding an inaugural meeting of all its service representatives in Tussenhausen-Mattsies in December, Grob will shortly convene the group again. Within a year, the centres could be getting hands-on experience of the world's first composite business jet.

Source: Flight International