Flying Colours Gains Orders For CRJ 200 Conversions

CRJ 200
Flying Colours offers a 29-seat corporate shuttle conversion featuring an economy section in the back half and a VIP interior in the front.
Credit: Flying Colours

Flying Colours, a Canadian-based refurbishment, completions and maintenance provider, is experiencing a “rebirth” in conversions of Bombardier CRJ 200 aircraft into corporate shuttles and VIP business aircraft.

“We’ve seen a bit of an uptick lately on some projects coming over from Europe and we’ve seen it go through the pandemic, so it’s been good,” says Eric Gillespie, Flying Colours executive vice president.

Flying Colours is based in Peterborough, Ontario, with facilities in St. Louis and Singapore. “It’s created some new opportunities, some new partnerships, new friends and new customers as a result, so it’s been good,” Gillespie says.

The increase in CRJ conversions is taking place in North America with an uptick in Europe, Gillespie says.

“I think that’s risen generally from the pandemic,” he says. “People are looking to charter more, so our initial interest came from charter companies. It’s also coming from potential owners and operators that want to buy them.” The used market for the aircraft is drying up and inventory is tight.

Flying Colours has received interest for a package of three conversions with one aircraft committed. That aircraft will arrive shortly. Two additional conversions are in discussions, Gillespie says.

“We’re basically taking that shell, gutting everything and building and installing a new interior,” he says.

Besides a full VIP conversion it calls the ExecLiner, Flying Colours also offers a 29-seat corporate shuttle conversion featuring a VIP interior in the front half of the aircraft followed by an economy section in the second.

Flying Colours has completed 30 or 35 conversions over the past 10 years. A conversion project may take anywhere from four to eight months or longer to complete, depending on customer requests and scope of work.

Besides green conversions, interior refurbishments and modifications, the company also provides heavy maintenance services, exterior paint, special mission modifications and avionics installations on mid-to-large size business aircraft. It also works with Bombardier on some completion work.

Roughly half of its business is in aircraft conversions and completions with the other half maintenance, repair and overhaul services. The company employs some 400 staff across its three locations. The MRO side of the business, which has been a core business, is growing.

“There’s a boom of it,” Gillespie says. “There’s a lot of people buying airplanes.” The goal is to stay busy and to grow, he says.

As with others in the industry, Flying Colours has been impacted by supply chain challenges, such as with certain vendors and some raw materials. And shipping in general has been unreliable.

“So, we’ve had to adjust and like everyone else, make the best of it,” he says. “I think we’ve been fortunate, compared to others. No major complaints, but it’s frustrating.”

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.