Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace is today opening its first Regional Support Office in Africa, at Lanseria airport outside Johannesburg.
The Regional Support Office is the company’s 15th while the parts depot is its 11th and is a sign of the company’s growing presence in the African market, which is only second behind Asia in terms of growth for Bombardier. “If you want to be present in a market you need a strong services presence,” said Eric Martel, President, Customer Services & Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft, Bombardier Aerospace.
Both the Johannesburg Regional Support Office (RSO) and the parts depot are co-located at ExecuJet South Africa’s facility at Lanseria airport, as ExecuJet is Bombardier’s local partner on both ventures. The new Regional Support Office will include teams that will cater to both business and commercial aircraft.
The 2 153 square-foot (200 sq m) Johannesburg parts depot facility will be equipped to serve all business and commercial aircraft customers within the region starting in the coming months and will be stocked with between 3 and 4 000 spare parts. “This is a clear signal we’re committed to this region,” Martel said.
“As the operator base grows within Africa, we are committed to providing our customers with the highest-quality service that we have in place worldwide,” said Martel. “We recognize how critical it is for customers to have support and parts available in their own region.”
More than 200 Bombardier business and commercial jets are based in Africa, including 156 commercial aircraft and 85 business aircraft. The company expects significant growth in Africa, with projected sales of 700 commercial aircraft in Africa over the next 20 years. It aims to sell another 810 business aircraft to both Africa and the Middle East over the same period. Bombardier has already seen strong growth, tripling its African fleet over the last six years.
South African Express is a large Bombardier operator, with 9 Q400 regional turboprops and 14 CRJ regional jets. SA Express is also an authorised service facility for the CRJ 100/200/700 and Q series aircraft and operates a Q100/300 flight simulator for pilot training.
Ethiopian Airlines is another big Bombardier customer, with 13 Q400s. (Bombardier hopes to set up an authorised service facility with Ethiopian Airlines in the coming months.) In East Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia are large operators while in Southern Africa Mozambique, Angola and South Africa operate dozens of Bombardier aircraft. The most recent African customer was Nigeria’s Arik Air, which ordered four Q400s and three CRJ 1000s at the Paris Air Show, to become the first CRJ 1000 operator in Africa.
Raphael Haddad, Vice President, Middle East and Africa Sales – Commercial Aircraft Aerospace, said that there is big demand coming from West Africa, especially countries like Ghana, Senegal and the Ivory Coast. He added that resource rich countries in Central Africa were also driving demand – for instance, Ethiopia is the fourth fastest growing economy in the world and with continued growth, more people are flying. “We see growth happening all across the continent,” he said.
“We are in discussions with multiple airlines across Africa,” Haddad noted. “There’s a demand here. With greater economic development you need to connect hubs.” Todd Young, Vice President, Customer Services and Support, Commercial Aircraft, added that Africa is becoming wealthier and infrastructure is improving, causing more people to want to travel by air.
Bombardier said turboprops are well suited to African demands as they are fast, relatively fuel efficient and are able to operate from shorter, more austere runways than jets. The company’s Q400 is selling well, as airlines go for 70 seater aircraft that offer low km/seat costs.
However, Bombardier also has high hopes for its new CSeries narrowbody airliner, which is scheduled to fly at the end of this month. A clean sheet of paper design, it promises 20% reduced fuel burn compared to existing aircraft in its class and should be 15% less expensive to operate. So far, the CSeries has accumulated 388 commitments and 177 firm orders, but no orders have yet been forthcoming from Africa.
Bombardier claims a 50% share of the 100-149 seat airliner market segment, but faces stiff competition from Comac of China, Mitsubishi of Japan, Brazil’s Embraer, France’s ATR and Russia’s Sukhoi. In addition, their own aircraft are being sold second hand in Africa, to carriers like Bluebird, Aero Contractors and 748 Air Services.
Nevertheless, Bombardier executives told defenceWeb this afternoon that they were very optimistic about prospects in Africa. The company is currently hosting a two-day regional airline event in Johannesburg.