Dassault Aviation’s recent acquisitions of ExecuJet’s MRO Services and TAG Maintenance Services in Europe represent “a changing strategy” for customer support, according to Jean Kayanakis, senior vice-president of worldwide Falcon customer service and maintenance network. “For 40 years, we relied on third-party authorized service centers. But the market is changing. Customers are expecting OEMs to have better control of their experience as a customer. MROs are becoming more important. The business is becoming more influenced by the aftermarket,” he said in an interview at the annual Falcon Maintenance & Operations (M&O) Seminar in Paris. “In days past, engineering input was primary in a new airplane. Tomorrow, it is what the customer may expect in total benefit, including utilization of the aircraft.”
The Paris event was one of eight M&Os in Europe, North and South America, and Asia from April 9 through May 21.
The ExecuJet acquisition from Luxaviation, announced in late January, adds 15 maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) centers across Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East to the five company-owned Dassault Falcon Services locations in Europe and Dassault Aviation Services in North America.
Dassault is also in the process of acquiring the European MRO activities of TAG Aviation in Geneva and Sion, Switzerland; Farnborough UK (which Dassault expects to expand); Lisbon, Portugal; and Paris, France.
The ExecuJet and TAG centers will retain their identities and management teams, and will continue to service multiple OEM types in addition to Dassault Falcons. For example, TAG has an extensive Bombardier business jet clientele. “For many reasons, it is quite impossible to start from scratch. They know the customers and the vendors, and we hope to teach them more about Falcon,” said Kayanakis. Currently about 10- to 15 percent of the business conducted through the new acquisitions is on Dassault models.
“We will try to adapt to the competition,” Kayanakis added. “The main idea is to extend our network footprint in Asia and Europe, as well as the Middle East, Africa and Australia. This was our first move.”
Will there be future acquisitions, for example in North America? Of the 2,120 Falcons in service worldwide (1,260 operators, 90 countries), more than two-thirds—69 percent—are in the Americas. Europe, the Middle East, and Africa account for 25 percent, Asia-Pacific only 6 percent. “The U.S. market has the same kind of expectation. We don’t want to rely only on independent organizations. We will need to be clever, maybe.”
Kayanakis stated, “We will need some more capacity,” citing the new Falcon 6X, expected to enter service in 2022, “and another airplane in the future.” The support space needs are also driven by the trend toward larger aircraft. “Capacity has a direct impact on our ability to service the fleet.”
“We need opportunities to be involved in most aspects with our customers—including maintenance and pilots—to get a more comprehensive experience. We want to strengthen that to improve the product and customer service,” he said.
Nearly 300 Falcon customer representatives attended the Paris M&O two-day event, 138 with “flight ops” profiles and 154 with “maintenance profiles.” There were also more than 200 sponsors, including engine, avionics, communications, training, and other Dassault vendors. Nearly 2,000 attendees are expected across the eight M&O events globally.
For the first time, a cabin track was incorporated for flight attendants, covering safety events and the new FalconConnect onboard communications and entertainment systems.
There was a heavy dose of detail and transparency in the aircraft-specific sessions as Dassault and partner presenters described program updates, regulatory impacts, operational challenges such as cold weather, aircraft system or parts problems customers had experienced and what the OEM was doing to fix them, as well as some new developments.
Among the innovations Dassault revealed were drone inspections of aircraft and 3D scanning. The drone would be fully autonomous, preprogrammed to check the entire exterior of an aircraft for damage and defects. Tests are in progress on military aircraft with initial evaluations on Falcons soon. The 3D scan, currently using a handheld scanner (perhaps via drone in the future) measures surface distortion or loss of material and is accurate to 0.005 millimeters. Dassault said the scanner has been deployed at Dassault Falcon Service sites and saves 70 percent of the time required for complex mapping.
In the exhibits area, Dassault offered a virtual reality experience of the FalconEye Combined Vision System (CVS) head-up display, which aligns real-world imagery from an array of cameras and sensors with a synthetic terrain map for enhanced situational awareness in low-visibility approaches. FalconEye was certified late last year by both EASA and the FAA for Falcon 8X operational credit for poor-viz approaches down to 100 feet and is expected to be approved soon for the Falcon 2000LX and Falcon 900LX. A dual-HUD configuration and full approach capability are anticipated next year.
On the subject of passenger medical care, cabin training partner Aircare demonstrated an upgrade to its portable patient assessment and communications tool—the Aircare Access RVS 6 (Remote Viewing Station) at the M&O meeting. Jake Paini, Aircare International director of sales, said, “The basic premise behind the unit is to provide the flight crew, physician, and patient a means of providing a professional assessment of an ill passenger while in-flight or on the ground. Through the use of encrypted video, doctors have the remote ability to see and talk with your caretaker and send the assessment data to the physician in real time.” The RVS 6 combines video, wireless diagnostic tools (blood pressure, glucose meter, thermometer, electrocardiogram, pulse oximeter), and live streaming of encrypted data.