Paris Air Show

DFS is where Falcons roost

 - December 13, 2006, 11:19 AM

When the Dassault Falcon 7X arrived at Le Bourget on Friday to begin its debut appearance at the Paris Air Show, pilots Yves Kerherve’ and Philippe Deleume taxied the new trijet not to the airshow static display right away but to the ramp of Dassault Falcon Services (DFS), just to the northeast of the air and space museum. For anyone flying a Falcon to Paris, it’s the natural place to park the airplane, but DFS is much more than a handling service for visiting business jets.

During a preshow tour of the facility, Alain Garcia, DFS president, explained that the Dassault Aviation division, created in 1967, provides maintenance and executive flight services in addition to handling services, though this is no small task. Le Bourget is the dedicated general aviation airport for Paris with some 23,000 business jet movements each year. It is, in fact, the single busiest business aviation airport in Europe. (As a business aviation destination, London has more movements, but these are divided among three airports.)

For visiting executives, DFS provides meeting rooms and can arrange the usual ground services expected of every good handling service or fixed-base operator: limousines, taxis and restaurant and hotel reservations.

For the aircraft, DFS will provide inside and outside cleaning, refueling and on-board catering. For the pilots, the company’s operations staff will help them obtain required authorizations, file flight plans and obtain weather information. DFS provides ramp service for about 2,200 aircraft per year.

As important as the handling services are for DFS, maintenance is its bread and butter, with some 70 percent of the subsidiary’s annual revenue of about €141 million ($172 million) coming from this part of its business. In fact, Garcia estimates that DFS, which has some 600 employees dedicated to Falcon service, does more than 50 percent of the Falcon maintenance in the Dassault-defined Eastern Hemisphere, namely Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India. The company works on about 420 Falcons a year, including 37 aircraft on by-the-hour maintenance contracts. It has specialized shops for engines and avionics, performs modifications and does cabin interior completions.

Last year, DFS saw a 15-percent increase in maintenance activity over 2003, said Garcia, but this was due mainly to several mandated equipment installations or upgrades, including enhanced ground proximity warning systems, emergency locator transmitters and mode-S transponders. He said he expects business this year to return to the 2003 level and acknowledged DFS’ main competitors for Falcon maintenance are all in Switzerland–Jet Aviation, TAG and Transairco.

The third leg of the business is aircraft charter. DFS manages five business jets for corporate owners, four Falcon 50s and one Falcon 900EX, and all of these are offered for on-demand charter under JAR Ops 1 when not flying for the owners. Garcia expects to add another Falcon 900 under a management contract in about a month.

The company also operates a Falcon 2000 and Falcon 900 for Dassault Aviation itself, including a four flights a day shuttle operation, five days a week, between Le Bourget and Toulouse.