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Bombardier readies for expansion of service arm

GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON DC

Manufacturer's aircraft services business eyes second US maintenance facility

Bombardier's recent long-term deal with Northwest Airlines for CRJ maintenance has signalled a drive by the Canadian manufacturer to expand its aircraft services business, including evaluating whether to build a new maintenance facility in the USA.

Northwest signed a potential 10-year agreement for Bombardier to perform heavy maintenance on Northwest Airlink CRJs (Flight International 9-15 April). Initially, the C-check work will be performed at the Bombardier-owned West Virginia Air Center (WVAC) in Bridgeport, West Virginia.

Over the five-year period of the initial contract, Northwest's fleet of CRJ200/440s is scheduled to grow to 129 aircraft. WVAC already performs CRJ heavy maintenance for Delta Connection carrier Comair and for Mesa Air Group.

With WVAC approaching capacity, Bombardier is considering building a second regional-aircraft heavy maintenance centre at another location. As the number of CRJs operating "west of the Mississippi" is increasing, the second location could be in the western USA.

Bombardier has been building up WVAC's maintenance business since its contract to convert ex-airline Shorts 360s to C-23 Sherpa transports for the US Army began winding down. The Comair work was moved there from the manufacturer's Hartford, Connecticut, business-aircraft service centre. WVAC is refurbishing ex-Midway Airlines CRJs for delivery to Air Canada, Air Wisconsin and Mesa.

The West Virginia site has now been qualified to maintain the Canadian company's Dash 8 Q400 and CRJ700/900 regional aircraft. WVAC is also reponsible for maintaining the fleet of Learjet 31A, Learjet 45, Learjet 60 and Challenger 604 business jets operated by Bombardier's Flexjet fractional-ownership programme, as their high utilisation requires airline-style scheduled maintenance.

Under Bombardier's new services strategy, WVAC has been given worldwide responsibility for airline start-up teams to assist new customers, and for mobile repair teams to support CRJ and Dash 8 operators.

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