Although business aviation was still recovering from the effects of 9/11 in 2003, two Quebec companies–DEM Capital and Elisen Technologies–decided that the market could support one more business aviation facility. The result of their partnership was the creation of the Montreal Jet Center (MJet) on P.E. Trudeau International Airport in Montreal. DEM Capital specializes in total aircraft maintenance, and Elisen Technologies is a Transport Canada-certified aeronautics engineering firm that provides all of MJet’s engineering design work and certification.
Jacques Dalphond, v-p and general manager of MJet, told AIN, “In 2003 we looked at the business jet market and asked ourselves where it was heading. You may remember 2003 wasn’t the best year for business aviation, but reasonable projections did indicate that 2005 would be better and the market would pick up from there through 2012.
“What we saw was a need for avionics upgrades such as RVSM through 2005. RVSM provided a guaranteed market place, so, in the short term, it was a good time to start,” he added. However, the company was not founded simply to capitalize on a short-term need.
Demand for Refurbishment
According to Dalphond, when principals studied the post-9/11 aircraft market they came to an interesting conclusion. “What we saw was a major decline in aircraft deliveries, but when we looked at the period between 1997 and the end of 2001, we saw the total delivery of bizjets represented about 50 percent of the existing fleet, and that presented an interesting opportunity.
“Right about the time the RVSM demand began to run out a lot of aircraft began coming up on eight years old,” Dalphond said. “The 2005 to 2009 time frame presented a strong market for refurbishment, particularly for the Challenger line. The average refurbishment age for Challengers is eight to 10 years. We looked at Challenger deliveries for the 1997 to 2001 period and found Bombardier averaged 25 to 30 per year.”
Dalphond explained that the 601 major inspection is on a 60-month cycle and that it requires removal of the interior and side panels. “Basically a lot of the cost of an upgrade is already incurred when you do the inspection,” he said. “Now five years is probably too soon for a major refurbishment, though some minor refurb work is a strong possibility, but when it comes around the next time at 10 years the aircraft is prime for refurbishment. For a 604 it’s an eight-year cycle. If you do the math, it works out to a strong market potential.”
Dalphond explained that Elisen Technologies’ design engineers have a core competency in structure, electrical, interiors and systems, making their refurbishment design capability compatible with offering inspections. “By combining the two you offer the customer savings in both time and money,” he said.
“A major inspection on the 601 takes four to five weeks, and on the 604 it’s between four and six. In our experience, clients expect refurbishment downtime of 35 to 42 working days, so with good planning the two simultaneous operations are compatible.”
MJet caters to the large and midsize jet industry, offering extensive services that include aircraft maintenance, avionics, interior refurbishing, engineering and certification. The company’s 80,000-sq-ft facility includes a 35,000-sq-ft maintenance bay capable of holding up to six Challengers.
There is 26,000 sq ft of administrative space, including VIP and pilot lounges, fully furnished offices for clients, wireless Internet access and conference rooms. In addition there is 16,000 sq ft of backshop space, including a wood shop, sheet metal, a library and storage.
Dalphond said MJet now has a contract with Bombardier to install all the wiring on green aircraft. “Elisen currently has 29 engineers with experience working for Bombardier, so they know the product line and the culture of Bombardier,” he said.
“We currently have 80 employees, and many of them have a lot of experience with Bombardier as the OEM is a major employer in the Montreal area. We will expand our employee base to 166 this year with most of the new hires accounting for the Bombardier green contract. We are right next door to them on the airport; it’s an excellent relationship for both companies.”
Staying on Course
According to Dalphond, when the principals were looking at the start-up in 2003 their financial advisor recommended against it. “The 2004-2005 period was a little bit less than our business expectations, but we see 2006 as a period of growth equivalent to what we had projected for 2008,” he said. “The market is clearly aligning with our expectations. Some of it is our expertise and client satisfaction, to be sure, but it is also true the economy is getting better.”
Last year, MJet had 40 projects, ranging from small to extensive. This year U.S. customer projects will double the company’s man-hours from approximately 35,000 last year to 70,000 hours. “Most of that increase will be the result of 601 and 604 interior and maintenance work,” he said.
“Whereas we went into business catering to the U.S. market, this year we will also significantly expand our presence in the Canadian market from about 14,000 hours last year to 80,000 hours, partially because of our Bombardier contract.”
Dalphond also said the company has begun to penetrate the European market. “Last year Europe accounted for only about 4 percent of our total revenue; however, we’re very optimistic about getting into the major modification program for corporate shuttles in Europe. We are now projecting about 45,000 to 50,000 hours this year,” he said.
“We can thank our engineering firm for that opportunity because they have experience in reconfiguring the CRJ200 to a corporate shuttle by adding a VIP section, entertainment equipment and so on. It’s already begun; we’ve had clients such as Limited, IRL and Penske Race Team. Fortunately, we ignored the advice of our financial advisor.”
Line and heavy maintenance
Engine and APU R&R
Mobile repair personnel
Structural and composite analysis
Maintenance and upgrades
Cabin management systems
New cabinetry, galleys, bulkheads
Complete wood finishing
Upholstery, carpets, headliners