Just over thirty years ago John Gillespie merged his aircraft sales business Rapid Aircraft with his aircraft painting company Flying Colours Corp. Today as illustrated by the recent appointment of the company’s first European employee, Flying Colours is in full expansion mode.
By Iris Savage
Flying Colours’ President John Gillespie had noted customers he’d sold aircraft to were coming back for paintwork modifications serviced by Flying Colours Corp. They then returned for small maintenance repairs, which became more extensive as the aircraft sold grew in size. Gillespie saw an opportunity to diversify.
All under one roof
Since February 1989 Flying Colours has offered the full spectrum of maintenance, repair, paintwork, overhaul, and interior support services. The Canadian market welcomed the ability to work with a single, local, team of in-house experts to maintain all elements of their aircraft. Today Flying Colours still minimizes down time, and maximises operating budgets through the single-source business model. It formed the foundations from which the small Peterborough, ON. Canadian business grew from some twenty employees to an international company with a 500 strong workforce.
Flying Colours Corp. continues to pride itself on its in-house capability to deliver each service first-hand. “We invested heavily in our facility, our people and our knowledge to ensure our clients have access to the best expertise, all under one roof,” says Gillespie. “It means we can manage the complete process without dependence on third parties. Our team offers innovative flexible solutions developed in conjunction with the client to fulfil their requests and troubleshoot challenges.” In fact, Integrity, Innovation, and Flexibility are the company’s watch words, which literally shout from the banners strung across the walls of each site.
Expanding in the U.S.A
As its reputation grew within the North Americas it became apparent Flying Colours needed a physical presence in the U.S.A to serve the growing demand from N-registered aircraft owners. The business was being limited by the physical size of the Ontario facility, so when the opportunity to purchase JetCorp Tech Services in St. Louis, MO. arose Gillespie took it. In 2009 JetCorp Tech joined the Flying Colours family. Four years later JetCorp became Flying Colours Corp. KSUS aligning the brand and processes across the north Americas.
With an enviable reputation for design engineering, a can-do attitude and an obsession with providing best-in-class standards, 2013 saw Flying Colours launch its special missions division. Its first venture was significant on a number of levels.
The Bombardier connection
Bombardier appointed the team to handle a two-year project, which involved extensive modification of seven CRJ700 NextGen aircraft for a Chinese client. The work also included generating supplemental type certificates that needed to satisfy the Chinese Civil Aviation Authorities. In the same year Flying Colours undertook the completion of a further five green Challenger 850s, of which the cabin volume is the same size as the Global 6000.
It was this work that led to the forging of an on-going alliance between Flying Colours and the Canadian OEM, which sees all Flying Colours facilities supporting work across the Bombardier Global, Challenger and Learjet aircraft. “This was a really important period in our journey. It launched our work on the Global family and strengthened our relationship with Bombardier.”
“The CRJ project gave us our first introduction to working in Asia. This led to a number of exciting projects.” Flying Colours was selected by Bombardier to provide interiors support services within the OEM’s Seletar Airport facility to complement their own maintenance services in 2015. “The region continues to be an important part of our future. We have just renewed the Seletar agreement for the next five years and will grow in line with Bombardier expansion.”
The impressive success of the business began to attract interest from outside investors and in February 2018 the family business announced that private equity firm, New Heritage Capital, had become a minority stakeholder. The investment bolstered the growing business delivering resources that enabled Flying Colours to realise high value projects. “The partnership gave us a platform from which to fuel our ambitious growth strategy and rapidly scale up our business model,” explained Gillespie.
To prove the point Flying Colours is in heavy expansion mode. The St Louis team moved into a new hangar this January, which is large enough to accommodate three Global type aircraft at any one time. “We’re already running out of space there as the demand is so great for our expertise in this field,” states Gillespie. This followed the outfitting of a state-of-the-art manufacturing workshop, which primarily supports the design, build and finishing of woodwork monuments for large business jet cabins. This increased productivity by 600% and was the first major infrastructure change since the acquisition. Meanwhile at Peterborough work is progressing on construction of its largest building yet to incorporate a third dedicated paint shop and airliner-size hangar.
In the next twelve months Flying Colours needs to recruit a stunning one hundred employees. “It’s a little daunting but we are proud to be in this position. Thanks to our team we are where we are today, and we’re pleased to continue to develop with our workforce.” Next up is geographic expansion and May saw the appointment of Flying Colours’ first European employee. “This is simply a sign of what is to come as we are eyeing many new horizons and options for diversification. We look to the past having learned many lessons and to the future with enthusiasm for the all the things we have yet to achieve.”
“The Asia region continues to be an important part of our future. We have just renewed the Seletar agreement for the next five years and will grow in line with Bombardier expansion.”John Gillespie