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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 14, 2017 1 year ago

Forget New York

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Flightdocs expects sustained growth with new software for aircraft maintenance tracking.
by: Ted Carter Contributing Writer

Moving his company, Flightdocs, to Southwest Florida to flee the high taxes of New York state continues to pay off for Rick Heine.

Now based in Bonita Springs, the company, for one, has reaped quick rewards from last year's launch of new aircraft maintenance and inventory management software. Heine calls the program, which brought a nearly 40% increase in first quarter revenue for the global company, the most advanced in the world. And more recently, Flightdocs went to market with HMX, a version of the software designed for helicopters.

All versions of the software product, Enterprise, capture all the information on work done to the aircraft, including who did it and when, Heine says. The 38.5% jump in sales over the first quarter of 2016 follows a $6 million investment and three years of development work on the Enterprise platform, he says.

Topping 2016 is especially meaningful, Heine says, because last year was a particularly strong one for sales. “Clearly, this is what the market has been looking for. It hit the mark,” says Heine, whose company employs about 60 people, mostly as code writers, software development specialists and customer service professionals.

Heine declines to give annual revenue other than to say it's between $10 million and $20 million.

More than 4,500 aircraft owners use Flightdocs' products, he says. Customers include aircraft owned by companies and individuals, as well as small regional airlines and charter jet services. “Our sales will have doubled from 2014 by end of this year,” Heine adds.

In addition to maintenance tracking, Enterprise manages electronic logbooks and work orders, Flightdocs COO Greg Heine, Rick Heine's son, says in a Flightdocs promotional video.

“We've invested in and built the most advanced aircraft maintenance tracking system in the world,” says Greg Heine.

Rick Heine, meanwhile, projects a tripling of revenue over the next five years, especially if Flightdocs carries out a plan to modify the Enterprise platform for use in the maritime shipping, trucking and heavy-equipment industries. “By then, we'll be well over the 100-employee mark,” he says.

The growth led the company to move offices last year from Fort Myers to larger quarters at 27598 Riverview Center Blvd., in Bonita Springs. The grounds on which the headquarters sit have plenty of room for expansion, Heine adds.

Heine founded Flightdocs in 2003 on Long Island. Fed up with New York's high business taxes, he moved his company to Southwest Florida in 2009.

Today, the CEO places Flightdocs second in terms of sales worldwide in its niche industry, behind CAMP, or Computerized Aircraft Maintenance Programs. Heine estimates CAMP's maintenance software is used on about 14,000 jets.

With about 30,000 small jets in operation worldwide, he says the 4,500 jets using Flightdocs' services represent 10% to 15% of the market — maybe. “It is hard to tell,” he says. “We don't know the size of the smaller guys who might be using spreadsheets or other things.”

Flightdocs does most of its sales through sales people who travel the aviation trade show circuit, Heine says.

They sell Enterprise as a “compliance engine,” Heine says, and emphasize to sales prospects that without detailed proof of compliance, they can't fly their aircraft.

Compliance under Federal Aviation Administration rules essentially means following all maintenance specified by the manufacturer. “Behind the scenes,” he says, “we manage all the maintenance schedules from the manufacturer.”

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