October 15, 2009

Bombardier works for more efficiency

David Coleal understands the downside of the aviation industry.

David Coleal understands the downside of the aviation industry.

"There are always economic challenges," he said.

But he also knows things will turn around eventually.

"Volumes do... slowly recover," said Coleal, Bombardier Learjet's vice president and general manager.

Making sure the company has the right products when the market recovers is a key focus for Bombardier Learjet, he said.

The company also is working to be more efficient and is focused on maintaining good relationships with its customers.

"There's a finite amount of customers out there for business aircraft," he said. "We want to make sure we're staying in touch with them."

The company has cut its Wichita employment from 3,000 to 2,200 people.

"I think we're sized kind of correctly," Coleal said. But "we're always evaluating."

Bombardier Learjet lost an order for 25 Learjet 60XRs with an option for 85 more in August after Jet Republic closed its doors.

It has put on a big push to sell the planes. That success will determine whether it must make production changes next year, officials have said.

It's not planning strategic changes in outsourcing or the facility's core skills, Coleal said. The Learjet site is one of nine Bombardier facilities.

"We always figure out what facilities have the best skill sets to do what work," Coleal said. "For Learjet, there is no change."

Wichita's skills are in final assembly, completion, paint and delivery, he said.

That includes the new Learjet 85 business jet, its largest Learjet to date. The Wichita facility will design, assemble, deliver and support the plane.

Bombardier's facility in Mexico will fabricate the plane's composite fuselage and ship it to Wichita.

Both sites will expand as the Learjet 85 moves to production.

Becoming more efficient is a priority for the Wichita site.

Changes started with the Learjet 85 program and are moving to other areas.

Visual boards track the jet's progress, for example.

Employees now hold short daily briefings on production schedules, aircraft status, problems and successes.

Coleal agrees that an upturn in the business jet market will be slow.

But it will recover, he said. "It is a viable industry to be in."

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