When AFV Partners bought Aircraft Performance Group (APG) in January, this signaled new opportunities for the developer of the PreFlight Genesis iPad app and long-time provider of runway analysis services.
APG was owned by private equity firm Liberty Hall, and APG board member Tony Aquila is the founder and CEO of AFV Partners. “Tony is a long-term investor and he creates value,” said APG CEO Mike Caflisch. “We were looking for a partner to bring our long-term vision and strategy together.”
Just two months after buying APG, AFV Partners added the RocketRoute flight-planning service to its aviation stable, purchased from Alyssum Holdings. APG had been working with RocketRoute for many years, providing runway analysis and aircraft performance services for RocketRoute customers. The owner of RocketRoute as well as charter broker FlyVictor ran into financial trouble and needed to divest those two companies, giving AFV the opportunity to acquire RocketRoute. “We saw it as an opportunity,” said Caflisch. “They have a technology set that is really terrific and complementary to what APG is doing.”
Of course, APG’s iPreFlight Genesis app includes flight planning, but the plan was always to add new capabilities, and RocketRoute will help with that plan. “This acquisition by AFV and bringing RocketRoute into the family will create an incredible number of functionality exchanges,” he said.
Chief among these is RocketRoute’s strength in flight planning in Europe’s complex airspace. “They’re the best company for routing and filing through Eurocontrol, with a high rate of acceptance in flight plan filings,” he said. “We’ll take advantage of that. And there are other features on our roadmap that we’ll add, and vice versa. We’ll be able to help them in all their markets. It’s a situation where there is very little overlap competitively.”
As far as integration of iPreFlight Genesis and RocketRoute, the first step is improving the user experience for customers of both products, Caflisch said. “Customers will see a much deeper level of integration of performance [calculations] in the RocketRoute system.” The existing setup redirects a RocketRoute flight-planning customer to APG for performance calculations, but that will soon be improved. APG’s products will also be more integrated with RocketRoute’s, especially for Eurocontrol flight plan filing, creating a seamless platform. “Bringing the two companies together only strengthens each other in our flying and geographical markets,” he said.
APG customers, meanwhile, have new ways of subscribing to the available software programs. At last year’s NBAA convention, APG introduced two subscription types, one called Performance, which is basically the iPreFlight 3 product that covers weight and balance and performance calculations, along with runway analysis. The full version, iPreFlight Genesis, is now the Navigator subscription, and this adds flight planning to the other features.
Training is available from APG, but customers can also specify that they want to use the iPreFlight app during training events at FlightSafety and CAE. “They’re using the app just as they would in regular flying,” he said.
Why Buy Aviation Companies?
Aquila said the reason that AFV purchased RocketRoute and APG has to do with helping the aviation industry conduct transactions more efficiently, by creating a common platform that speeds up communication and makes use of all the data generated by participating entities.
AFV’s portfolio of companies puts blockchain technology to work to authenticate the data and the people and assets that generate that data, not just in aviation but other industries such as sports and trucking. All of these industries, he said, “are top-25 micro-terrorist attack vectors,” and thus require protection using modern technology like blockchain, which uses cryptography to link records in an open ledger that can easily be shared between two parties.
AFV’s specialty is taking “disaggregated” but “connected environments” and getting them all to work together on a common platform. “This reduces waste, increases security, and lowers the attack vector [opportunities]. We’re never in competition with anything, we’re the information provider between participants. We’re putting data to [work] so people can transact more efficiently.”
One mistake that AFV avoids is competing with the customers that generate the data, and that is why it didn’t want to own charter brokerage FlyVictor. He explained, “FlyVictor put me in conflict with my customers. We never compete with customers. People trust us with their data because we never competed with them.”
Aquila sees the business aviation industry as not well connected, with participants and products not communicating effectively. AFV has successfully invested in improving connections between disparate entities in other industries such as insurance and trucking, improving efficiency “by connecting information strands,” he explained. “Our model is about getting digital connectivity.”
An important part of this effort is putting blockchain to work. “It’s important because an asset can live forever,” he said. “You need to have a recording of history. Blockchain gives you the ability to take the history from any point. [Start with the] tail number and serial number and pick a date; you know who owned it, who serviced it. Think of it like a giant ledger that is connected.
“We did this in the automotive industry and reduced insurance premiums because it reduced waste and fraud. A car has 54 critical transactions, a truck 250, and airplanes 2,000. Whoever understands those can give the best history report. That’s why we use blockchain. If you have all that at your readiness, now you can underwrite power-by-the-hour programs better.”
The APG acquisition, Aquila explained, is important not only because it helps pilots fly more efficiently and safely but opens up opportunities to further improve flight operations. “We can generate a fileable, flyable flight plan in less than a minute with full weight and balance and performance,” said Caflisch. “We not only buy them time, but it’s better and in a more safe fashion.
“We’re looking for where the opportunity exists to gather data, fuse data, and create that time. We’ve been focusing on and building a road map to capitalize on those high-value opportunities that will drive growth across our portfolio. Tony’s team has come in and [conducted] major activities to bring in know-how and the technology skillset to build that foundation and grow. That’s the benefit we get from Tony’s team and AFV partnering with us.
“We’re super excited. Now we have the right partner that can help us [with] our future vision and strategy.”
“This is a long-term game,” said Aquila, “not short. [We’re asking], what can people work on that will make a difference. We want to invest in entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they believe in.”