‘Seamless transition’ to new Global facility key to Bombardier’s ongoing financial turnaround

Avatar for Frederick K. LarkinBy Frederick K. Larkin | November 30, 2021

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 3 seconds.

Bombardier’s prestigious Global family of business jets is currently produced at Downsview Airport (YZD) in Toronto. That operation will be moving to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in nearby Mississauga during 2023. Given that the three current models — Global 5500, Global 6500, and Global 7500 — represent a significant portion of Bombardier’s revenues and operating earnings, a seamless transition to the new site will be needed to ensure an uninterrupted delivery of aircraft, as well as to enable Bombardier’s ongoing financial turnaround.

Bombardier has said its flagship Global 7500 product is expected to be its “biggest EBITDA contributor until 2025.” Frederick K. Larkin Photo

Before discussing the details of this project, it is important to know why this move is necessary.

The Background

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited (DHC) established its presence at YZD in September 1929. Bombardier acquired DHC’s 370-acre (150-hectare) property, including a 7,000-foot-long runway, when it purchased control of DHC from Boeing on March 9, 1992. In an effort to raise funds, Bombardier sold its Downsview site to the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP) for approximately US$635 million on June 7, 2018. As part of the deal, Bombardier was allowed to continue operating at YZD for another five years. That would provide time to find a new location and to construct a manufacturing facility.

On Dec. 4, 2019, Bombardier announced a long-term lease arrangement with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority to develop its Global Manufacturing Centre in the northwest corner of YYZ.

The Importance

While Bombardier doesn’t release unit delivery numbers by aircraft model, it does by aircraft family. During the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2021, Bombardier delivered 38 Challengers and 76 Globals. Although the Globals represented two thirds of those 114 deliveries, they probably contributed more than 75 percent of the related revenues due to their higher values.

Furthermore, in its investor day presentation on March 4, 2021, Bombardier stated that the flagship Global 7500 product was expected to be its “biggest EBITDA contributor until 2025.” Therefore, a smooth transfer of operations from YZD to YYZ will be important to Bombardier’s customers, employees, and owners.

The Details

In order to gain insight into the Mississauga project, ***Skies*** posed the following questions to Bombardier’s head office team in Montreal.

Skies: What advanced manufacturing technologies will be installed at the new plant?

Bombardier: We are already using revolutionary manufacturing technologies in our production of Global aircraft that ensure the highest possible quality standards on each aircraft. These include extensive use of robotics for advanced aerodynamic tolerancing, as well as an automated positioning system that uses laser-guided measuring to join the wing structure to the fuselage with a high level of precision.

Robots also contribute to highly repeatable and predictable outcomes from a manufacturing perspective. This technology will be used at our Pearson facility, where the assembly line will be redesigned to achieve the same output as our current facility — but with a smaller environmental footprint.

Skies: What new ecological technologies will the new plant feature?

Bombardier: The environmentally responsible features at the new facility will reduce energy consumption by almost 60 percent and lower greenhouse gas emissions by more than half. We are also significantly reducing water use and have invested in storm water management. Our lighting costs will be reduced through intelligent use of natural lighting and the use of energy-efficient light bulbs. We will replace most of our gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles and install EV charging stations.

Bombardier announced plans in 2019 to build a new Global Manufacturing Centre in Mississauga. The facility is on track for completion in 2023. Bombardier Photo

Skies: Will the new US$400 million facility have any leading-edge architectural features?

Bombardier: The architects wanted to challenge the typical aircraft hangar typology; they aimed to foster a human-scale atmosphere and culture of collaboration through program adjacencies and natural light. To achieve the former, the new building will merge two seemingly dichotomous programs (aircraft manufacturing and office space) as a way of ensuring better interaction of the teams.

Skies: What will the layout of the 770,000-square-foot complex include?

Bombardier: The new facility will be comprised of an aerostructures manufacturing assembly line, a flight test hangar, and several support structures for large component handling, tooling, and skilled trades. To reduce noise disturbance to the surrounding neighborhoods and support our operations, we are adding a booth for high-power engine runs — a first for Pearson Airport.

Skies: What is the timing of the transition from YZD to YYZ?

Bombardier: The construction program at Pearson is well on track for completion in 2023. The last aircraft will depart Downsview in December 2023, after which we plan to decommission the facility.

Skies asked Paul Sislian, Bombardier’s executive VP of operations, if he was confident about there being a smooth move from Downsview to Pearson. He responded: “Our cutting-edge new facility at Pearson will allow us to streamline and improve our manufacturing and assembly capabilities, and give us the flexibility to respond to the rising demand at a significantly reduced environmental and industrial footprint.

“We are making sure that the transition will be seamless for both our customers — who can continue to expect timely delivery of their aircraft — and for all of Bombardier’s employees in Ontario who will continue to build the world-class aircraft in an industry-leading production facility.”

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