Coleal Departs Bombardier As Transportation Unit Sale Gains Steam

David Coleal

Bombardier Aviation President David Coleal is departing the company following a senior management reorganization as Bombardier nears the sale of its transportation division. 

The departure is effective immediately. 

“With the sale of Bombardier Transportation nearing completion, we are preparing for our future as a business aviation company,” said Eric Martel, Bombardier president and CEO. “Our goal is to create a leaner, more agile and customer-centric company to better capture the growth opportunities with our industry-leading business jet portfolio. This includes simplifying our corporate leadership structure.” 

Martel thanked Coleal for “his many contributions to Bombardier. We wish David continued success in his future endeavors,” he said.

Bombardier expects to close on the sale of its Bombardier Transportation to Alstom during the first quarter of 2021. 

Coleal energized business aviation and Bombardier, said Rolland Vincent, president of Rolland Vincent Associates, a Plano, Texas-based consultancy firm. Vincent said Coleal is a “highly professional” advocate for the industry and for Bombardier and its products. 

“He had the respect of the organization,” Vincent said. “He’s a bit of a star in the industry ... He commanded a lot of respect.” 

One of his largest accomplishments was the certification of Bombardier’s flagship Global 7500 business jet. While certification was not on time, once the organization refocused to complete it, “he delivered,” Vincent said. “He did a nice job getting them aligned and delivering on their promises.” 

Coleal is an advocate for sustainability and leads the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) environmental committee. 

Coleal was appointed president of Bombardier Aviation in May 2019 after leading the business aviation division, which began in 2015. He came to Bombardier after serving at Spirit AeroSystems as executive vice president and general manager of Boeing business and regional jet programs. Before his position at Spirit, Coleal served as vice president and general manager of Bombardier Learjet and president and CEO of Cirrus Design Corp. 

Martel was appointed president and CEO of Bombardier in March and began his role on April 6. He most recently had served as president and CEO of Hydro-Quebec, a Quebec public utility company. From 2002 to 2015, Martel held a variety of positions within Bombardier, including president of Bombardier Business Aircraft. 

Coleal’s departure was not unexpected, Vincent said. When Martel returned to Bombardier and the company moved its corporate headquarters from downtown Montreal to nearby Dorval, it was clear Bombardier was in the midst of a reorganization, he said. 

Martel had a successful and high-visibility tenure at Hydro-Quebec, Vincent said. 

Going forward, Martel will have several large challenges to tackle, Vincent said. 

“He’s coming into a flat market where sales are going to be tough to come by and where everybody wants to protect margins,” he said. “You want to keep your factories humming; you want to polish the brand.“

Bombardier has a good product lineup with new and refreshed products. But demand for new business jets is expected to remain fairly flat for the next few years.

“It’s going to be a market share battle,” Vincent said. “You’re going to be battling for every deal and Eric will be quite close to these decisions, whether to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to some of these deals that will be put across the desk. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on pricing. It’s a tough call.” 

Bombardier’s margins are lower than its two primary competitors, Vincent said. “They need to think about how to claw that back.”

The company is working to grow its aftermarket services business, which is smart, he said. 

In the meantime, Martel must work to keep the organization lean and he must make it perform. 

“I don’t think Eric will fail at this,” he said.

(See the latest video interview with David Coleal, just before his departure, on Monday in Business Aviation Week 2020.) 

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.