Business Aviation Magazine: Stitching it all together

Featured in Business Aviation Magazine:

Rick Heine, Chairman and CEO of Flightdocs, and Greg Heine, President, talk to Anthony Harrington about the company’s integrated approach to flight operations.

AH: Lets start at the beginning…

RH: We began back in 2003 with the launch of Flightdocs 1.0 Maintenance Tracking Software. At that time, we were the first fully online, cloud-based offering in this space, and that was the unique selling point that we used to win our first customers in the industry.

Of course, at the time, we knew that CAMP had a significant share of the market and that it would be very difficult to compete with them on a like-for-like basis. Our advantage was that high speed internet services were just arriving on airports and we saw that by delivering a purely web-based service we would have a completely different appeal and one that offered significant advantages over existing systems.

We wanted an easy-to-use product that leveraged new technology, backed by an extremely responsive, 24 / 7 live analyst support team. If one of our customers was picking up the phone to call us, we knew they needed something, and they needed it quickly, and we wanted to make sure we delivered.

We began from the get-go with our “all-calls-answered-within-two-rings” approach, and this continues to be our policy to this day. It’s a metric that we measure every day, and it is rare that we don’t hit our 100% target.

A key differentiator for us is that we don’t have voicemail. Customers’ calls get answered immediately, they don’t have to leave messages and wait for someone to call them back. The analysts on the front-line are experts on both our platform and our customers’ aircraft. They are able to help them with just about any topic in a matter of minutes.

GH: Back in the early 2000’s, maintenance tracking was a heavy paper-based process. Even though operators may have used a maintenance tracking software package, the updates to the system were often taking 30 to 60 days to turn-around.

With our 1.0 platform, users were able to fill out their documents, fax or email them to our analysts, and the records were updated in less than 24 hours. They could log in and see a very current status of their aircraft. That story won us a number of early customers.

RH: What we did to start with was to go to several very well known and respected corporate flight departments and convince them of the benefits of using Flightdocs. They began using the system and saw it as a great step forward, and they told the people they knew about it. So, the momentum began to build.

The timing of our launch was very fortunate. At the time, high speed internet was making its way to the hangars. Operators were beginning to request things in real time. We began with a very simple, easy to use approach, with just four buttons on a screen that let our users manage their aircraft maintenance status. From there the product has evolved several times over.

AH: What was the background to launching Flightdocs Operations, the latest incarnation of your system?

GH: Around 2014 we realised that if we wanted to continue to build our market share, we had to bring new products to the industry that would help automate our customers’ workflow. While many within the industry believed the business would remain paper based, we saw it differently.

The cloud and mobile applications were already making a tremendous difference in the way things were done, in other industries and within aviation. We made a heavy investment into the development of Flightdocs Enterprise, our current flagship product, which launched in 2016. Enterprise focused on Maintenance and Inventory and has effectively transformed our customers’ operations, going from paper to 100% digital. Using Flightdocs, technicians can walk out to the aircraft, view instructions for the completion of tasks, update compliance, sign off electronically and create a logbook entry, all without a single sheet of paper.

RH: After the launch of Enterprise, we had substantial feedback from the market that there was a need for an end-to-end solution that could do everything from maintenance to flight scheduling to crew management. Really, a platform that could run an entire flight department.

GH: Typically, when you look at a flight department, maintenance and flight operations will run in separate silos. There is key data and processes in each department that is needed in the other department, but flow of data is manual or non-existent resulting in a lag in synchronising the data, and duplicate entries. This creates major opportunities for errors. None of this is good. So, a single, integrated system brings immediate benefits in terms of real-time access to data and accuracy of data.

In order to solve these issues, we began developing Fd | OperationsÔ In Q2 of 2018. Over the last year, we have worked with 25 flight departments from R&D to Beta and launched the new product in September 2019. The structure of our product development team allowed us to get to market so quickly. 100% US based and in-house, we are able to collaborate effectively to create a powerful and easy to use product. Fd | Operations will deliver key features such as drag-and-drop flight scheduling, leg-based trip planning, intuitive crew management, fully customizable flight logs, native mobile applications and real-time communication tools.

RH: One of the key communication features is called Fd | ConnectÔ. This is a mobile, secure, encrypted messaging platform. This allows for communication between crew, schedulers, dispatchers and maintenance to live within the platform, and eliminates the common headaches of long email threads, text messages and phone calls.

So far the feedback on the new product has been excellent and we continue to deploy new releases on a weekly basis. We will be doing live product demonstrations at NBAA BACE this year in Las Vegas. Stop by our booth, N4409 to have a look for yourself.