Dassault opens top-notch paint facility in Delaware

 - October 20, 2006, 8:57 AM

Just 387 days after groundbreaking ceremonies last year, Dassault Falcon Jet officially opened a new 40,000-sq-ft aircraft paint facility at its Wilmington, Del. complex on July 29. The facility had actually been up and running long enough for the first airplane it painted to take center stage at the ceremonies. The seven-year-old Corning Glass Falcon 2000 looked brand new in its fresh coat of white accented by oblique blue bands around the fuselage, and Dassault officials emphasized that the shine was exactly how the paint had dried, with no polishing or buffing. The airplane spent the last week of its four-week transformation in the new facility.

The gleam on the Corning Falcon backed Dassault’s claims for its facility, which reflects the state of the painting art and replaces an ancient paint shop that came with the purchase of Atlantic Aviation four years ago. Climate control inside the paint bays is the key to the quality possible with the new $8 million facility.

Dassault Falcon Jet Wilmington v-p and general manager Todd McGahey told AIN that the air in the downdraft spray bay is completely refreshed every six minutes at a flow rate of 150,000 cfm, and that the heating and cooling and dehumidification equipment can maintain an internal climate of 76 degrees F and 51-percent humidity year-round. (The temperature is raised to 115 degrees F after spraying for flash drying the surface of the coating.) Air in the neighboring prep bays is completely changed every 30 minutes.

Dassault officials expect the new facility to handle between 40 and 45 aircraft a year initially. On the official opening day, five aircraft were booked in, enough to keep the bays busy through next month. The bays are sized to accommodate not only the existing line of in-service Falcons but also the upcoming 7X. Bigger aircraft can be accepted, too: a Ford Motor Gulfstream V, its expanses of dull aluminum skin exposed after paint removal, was in the prep bay on opening day partway through a facelift, and a second GV belonging to the car manufacturer was booked in for similar treatment.

The old Atlantic Aviation paint shop will be revamped into a maintenance facility in Dassault’s ongoing program to renovate the former facility. Jack Young, president of Dassault Falcon Jet Wilmington, said that a corporate willingness to invest money in modernizing the complex’s paint capability was key to Dassault’s proceeding with the purchase of the base. Without that commitment from DFJ in Teterboro and parent Dassault in France, he said, the purchase would not have been so attractive from his perspective.

John Rahilly, v-p of sales for Dassault Falcon Jet Wilmington, told AIN that business is “booming,” particularly pre-purchase inspections. “Discretionary spending is up,” he said, “and people are more at liberty to spend money on a better interior and on improved avionics. We currently have a backlog of $33 million in outstanding quote requests for maintenance and refurbs–up by 33 percent over last year. Fuel sales are up a bit, but not significantly. With the long legs of today’s airplanes and operator-owned fuel farms back at home base, we get a lot of 250- or 300-gallon courtesy purchases.”