Grounded Aer Lingus pilots develop fix for turnaround glitches
Aviation start-up Frequency raises funds for web-based communication system to overhaul complex legacy messaging
Frequency, established by three Aer Lingus pilots grounded during the Covid crisis, aims to improve decision making and communication transfer during aircraft turnarounds. Photograph: Alexandra Wey
Three Aer Lingus pilots grounded during the Covid-19 shutdown have raised more than €500,000 for their aviation-focused start-up.
Frequency, which was set up by Justin Perry, Darach O’Comhrai and Kris Vansteenkiste, offers an internet-based communication system that ensures critical communication lines between the aircraft, line maintenance and operations control are kept open. It aims to improve decision making and communication transfer during aircraft turnarounds.
The start-up was established in response to the pilots’ experiences in using an overly complex system that relies on what they say are inefficient, unreliable, and dated forms of communication.
“We were having a terrible day with delays and trying to talk to the right people. We were giving out about communications and the systems. We’d call one person who would then call aircraft engineer who then talks to maintenance,” said Frequency chief executive and Aer Lingus first officer Justin Perry.
“All these calls cost small amounts of time, but it adds up. Every minute wasted costs the airline $78. If we can speed up the process of talking to a boarding agent, it can quickly save hundreds of dollars. The turnaround is a critical time for an airline for efficiency.”
The trio used Irish equity crowdfunding platform Spark Crowdfunding to raise €278,000 in 30 days, with match funding of €250,000 from Enterprise Ireland.
“Everything came together during lockdown. We weren’t flying so [we] had extra time to do fundraising. It has been a benefit to us,” Mr Perry said. “We are also getting airtime with airlines. Previously they were so busy, but now have the time to talk to us.”
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Frequency requires minimal capital expenditure, and eliminates many of the frustrations that hamper more traditional technologies, including range and sound quality.
“Delays cost airlines over €22 billion annually. Airlines use an overly complicated web of eight legacy, predominately analogue, communication channels on a daily basis. Frequency is building the first aviation-operations-specific, communication and collaboration platform,” said Mr Perry.
It can run in parallel with existing systems before replacing them, and can use the optimum method as required, whether voice, text, photo or file.
Spark Crowdfunding founder Chris Burge said there was still an appetite to invest in high-potential start-ups, despite the ongoing pandemic.
“People see that Frequency is an exciting new business, providing airlines with the opportunity for greater efficiency, which will be vital for lower costs and competitiveness post-Covid,” Mr Burge said.
“It’s exciting to see how much the aviation start-up has struck a chord with our investment community, with 75 different investors opting in to support the business financially.”
The equity crowdfunding platform has closed fundraising campaigns for Fleet, Campsited, Trifol and Wellola, among other Irish start-ups.
Spark, which connects early-stage firms with people who want to invest, said it saw an increase of 75 per cent in the number of new accounts between April and June, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in Ireland.
Equity crowdfunding offers shares in the company to investors in exchange for financing, targeting small and medium-sized investors rather than large funds. Investors can provide small contributions, and are entitled to a stake in the company proportional to their investment.
Spark Crowdfunding said the average investment on its platform is less than €2,000, but contributions can go as low as €100 for smaller investors.
“Our role is to facilitate connections between exciting Irish start-ups and individual investors interested in finding the next Stripe,” Mr Burge said.