Bombardier puts meter on support for older aircraft

 - September 26, 2007, 10:23 AM

 Last month, Bombardier Aerospace launched a “classic aircraft support program” after seeing a “dramatic increase” in service and support requests over the past three years from operators of older Learjets and Challengers. But there is a catch–operators are required to pay for the service.

Bombardier business aircraft covered under the program must be out of production for 10 years or more, the company said. This list includes all 20-series Learjets, all 30-series Learjets (except the 31A), Learjet 55s, and Challenger 600s and 601s. According to Bombardier, there are more than 1,300 classic Learjets and about 330 classic Challengers still flying.

“Our plan over the next few years is to develop the classic aircraft support program to offer focused service and support to classic aircraft owners and operators, whose needs are typically different from [those of] current aircraft operators,” Bombardier told AIN.

Under the 24/7/365 program, operators of older Learjets and Challengers have access to a dedicated team within Bombardier’s customer response centers (CRCs) in Wichita that can handle their support requests. The hotline number for classic Learjets is (866) 538-0247; for older Challengers it is (866) 538-1247.

Bombardier said customers will be charged for various types of support, including phone support from the CRCs, field service support, technical support, service engineering and maintenance program engineering.

The average hourly rates for classic support vary from $110 to $280 per hour, Bombardier noted, based on time of day and type of support.

Customers calling Bombardier’s classic support hotline will first be asked for either a purchase order or credit-card number. All chargeable services will be accompanied by a service request for product support action, which will be referenced when the invoice is sent to the customer.

An operator of a classic Challenger told AIN that Bombardier’s paid support program for older operators was a “bit of a surprise” when it was announced in a letter sent to operators last month.

In talking to Bombardier, he said the intention is to ensure that classic operators get the same level of support as a new Global owner. “We’ll see,” the Challenger operator said skeptically. “As a contractual Bombardier customer for all our parts we have committed to them in a larger sense. We were hoping that they would have taken this into account in the classic support pricing schedule.”

Bombardier’s move to differentiate service and support issues for older aircraft is not unique–Gulfstream several years ago shifted service and support for older GIIs and GIIIs to sister company General Dynamics Aircraft Services. But Bombardier appears to be the only business jet manufacturer that is charging for both tech support and field reps for older aircraft. Cessna, Dassault Falcon and Hawker Beechcraft told AIN that they do not, nor do they currently plan to, charge operators of older aircraft for these services. Gulfstream said it does charge for engineering services stemming from telephone tech support for out-of-warranty customers who aren’t on a contract maintenance plan, but field tech reps and AOG service are always available at no charge for all Gulfstream operators.