Aerospace servicing takes off as Bombardier expands in Australia

June 2021

Business jet manufacturer Bombardier is investing in Australia to grow its aircraft aftermarket support network in the Asia-Pacific region.

Australia’s burgeoning demand for business aircraft convinced the company to invest in a $25 million Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility at Victoria’s Essendon Fields airport.

In this case study, Vice President and General Manager for Bombardier’s Parts and Services, Christopher Debergh, discusses how the Melbourne project got off the ground, including:

  • why Australia is a good fit for Bombardier and vice versa
  • how Austrade helped Bombardier to set up faster in Australia than in other countries
  • the importance of a local partner and a supportive regulatory environment.

Debergh says Austrade was instrumental in helping Bombardier set up in Australia.

‘Austrade helped put together the pieces that go into setting up successful operations in another country. We knew exactly where to go, who to talk to, which agencies we needed to align ourselves with, and how the labour market worked.’

Why Australia for aerospace

Australia has been at the forefront of aviation and aerospace innovation for 100 years. This is due to the vast distances between major cities and the transport needs of thousands of remote communities.

‘Australia is a key market for Bombardier, and we’ve got close to 100 Bombardier aircraft here,’ says Debergh. ‘It’s a huge country and there are a fair number of smaller business aircraft already in the air. Our Learjet and Challenger aircraft, for example, are often used as medevac aircraft.

‘Because of its remoteness, you need large aircraft to fly from Australia to other major continents. We’ve got the Global 7500, the largest business jet you can get, which has a range of 7,700 nautical miles (14,260 km). So, from a customer perspective, Australia is a very good, solid base for us.’

A new aerospace centre of excellence for Australia, New Zealand the Pacific

The new 4,700 m2 Melbourne Service Centre is due to commence operations in early 2022. It will provide a major boost for the Australian aviation sector.

The mid-tier site will deliver a number of services to Bombardier aircraft across the region, including scheduled and drop-in maintenance, modifications, avionics installations and ground support. The centre will be able to service two luxury Global 7500 aircraft at the same time.

‘It is also going to be one of our parts distribution depots,’ says Debergh. ‘We have five of these in the world, and this one will be the central depot for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.’

Melbourne_Service_Centre_rendering

Image: A rendering of Bombardier’s Maintenance Repair Overhaul facility at Essendon Fields, Victoria.

High-skilled aerospace jobs and opportunities for businesses

The Melbourne site will employ about 50 people permanently. This includes 40 technicians, or ‘highly skilled, well-paid professionals’ sourced from Australia’s ‘strong technical talent pool.’

Debergh envisages the centre generating other employment opportunities and boosting incremental business for local providers.

‘Usually what happens is we put up the main MRO, then other businesses start to cluster,’ he says. ‘It could be a business doing interior work, such as polishing and cleaning aircraft, or basic workshops like cabin builders or sheet metal operators.

‘Some of our suppliers will follow us; as we open up, they’ll open up. These things take on a life of their own. Once you build them, you never know what’s going to get added down the road.’

Austrade helps Bombardier to fast-track approvals

Bombardier began the Essendon Fields project in mid-2020. Construction is due to be completed by the end of 2021. ‘That’s really fast,’ says Debergh.

Austrade played a key role in:

  • fast-tracking the process
  • facilitating strategic introductions
  • advising on foreign investment regulations
  • explaining decision-making structures.

‘Austrade was instrumental in helping us navigate various government programs,’ says Debergh. ‘The gentleman who runs our expansion globally came back from his first time in Australia saying what had taken months in other locations to figure out what to do had been sorted out by the second meeting.’

Victorian Government assists with long-term strategic planning

Bombardier worked closely with the Victorian Government to understand their aviation and infrastructure plans.

‘We work on a 30-year time frame,’ says Debergh. ‘We’re going to be here for at least 30 years, so we need to know what’s going to happen to aviation in this region over that time. Clearly our perspective is that it’s going to continue to grow, and the government agrees.’

The COVID-19 pandemic had a damaging impact on commercial air travel, but business jet travel has demonstrated more resilience globally. The number of first-time business jet users is rising, and sales of pre-owned business jets soared in 2020. This bodes well for the new centre.

Collaboration between Australian government agencies helps investment

Debergh and his team were impressed by the speed and efficiency with which local organisations, regional and state governments and federal agencies worked in partnership to help Bombardier set up in Australia.

He is quick to laud the merits of working with a local partner with a keen understanding of the industry and the market. The MRO facility was designed by Melbourne-based Bruce Henderson Architects and is being built by Essendon Fields airport.

‘One of the reasons our project in Australia moved so quickly is because of the collaboration and insights we obtained ... how to get training grants, how to get through the regulatory part of setting up, how to get a building permit,’ he says. ‘It was a friendly, very good working environment.

‘It has been a very, very rapid progression … in other regions the process can take a little longer.’

About Austrade

The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is the Australian Government’s international trade promotion and investment attraction agency.

We deliver quality trade and investment services to businesses to grow Australia’s prosperity. We do this by generating and providing market information and insights, promoting Australian capability, and facilitating connections through our extensive global network.

To discover how we can help you and your business, visit austrade.gov.au or contact us at info@austrade.gov.au or on 13 28 78 (within Australia).