In an engaging roundtable discussion, we explored TrustFlight's landmark achievements from the past year with three of our executive team members. Joining us were Karl Steeves, Director; Richard Steeves, Chairman; and Jim Swoboda, VP of Airworthiness.
Karl, how was 2023 for TrustFlight? What did your team accomplish?
Karl: “2023 was a landmark year for TrustFlight. From a customer perspective, one of the most significant achievements for our team was kicking off the Kalitta Air Electronic Tech Log implementation which was aligned with our strategic roadmap of growing our presence in North America. Our Technical Services team was also very busy with One Air, the UK’s newest cargo airline, where we supported their flight operations and airworthiness initiatives.
We also concluded the integration of Centrik SMS into the TrustFlight platform which was by no means an easy lift. We also established an AI Center of Competence in our Vancouver, British Columbia office which is making an impact within our business already. And lastly, we’re beginning to see our investments in sales and marketing bear fruit. We’re excited for the year ahead, but our efforts in 2023 were integral to setting us up for a strong 2024.”
Can you elaborate more on the AI Center of Competence?
Karl: “We’re always on the lookout for new advancements that can have a positive impact on our customers. Our technologies, at their core, are built to reduce risk, increase safety, and improve compliance. If we can leverage AI to accelerate those end benefits to our partners, we’ll ensure that we’re not only living up to our brand promise, but exceeding it.”
On one side, you have remarkable, industry-leading software. On the other side, you have technical divisions that perform aircraft technical and airworthiness services. Jim, how do the two work together? Is there any internal competition?
Jim: “I wouldn’t say there is any internal competition. If anything, it’s complementary—our technical divisions embrace technology. In addition to what Karl mentioned, not only have we started up an AI Center of Competence, but we’ve been an AMOS Center of Competence for quite some time. This means we understand the software that our customers use, very well. And this goes beyond AMOS, and includes popular solutions such as CAMP, TRAX and others. If we can enhance our productivity using our own solutions, then we’re all the better for it. This goes for our partners as well.”
How do your capabilities stack up against the competition?
Richard: “We don’t like to compare ourselves too much. We believe if we focus on our core competencies, then good things will happen for the business and our customers. If we do scan the market, we’ll quickly find that there are very few who can provide both software and services for multiple segments of aviation. For those that can, the differentiation comes down to execution. Our implementation teams are driven by that core concept. So, in terms of the competition, every business will have competitors in the market, but how you stand out is by focusing on yourself, understanding the customer and empowering your teams to excel.”
Going back to the Kalitta Air implementation, do you have any key learnings that you can share from an implementation of that magnitude?
Karl: “Kalitta Air, as you know, is a major US player in air cargo services. Their operation is fairly complex, considering they do everything in house. This was exciting for us because we understood that we could help Kalitta Air make significant improvements in their operational efficiencies. Our implementation team, again, driven by the core theme of execution, had to be very sharp in helping Kalitta Air embark on their digital transformation journey. We accomplished this by being selective on which parts of the business we were going to focus on first. With a phased approach, it’s often more manageable for all involved. Change management is an onerous thing, so we built on small internal wins to help with internal alignment. As the momentum grew internally, it became much easier to expand the scope of digital transformation, and that is the approach we took with Kalitta Air. We’ll continue to emphasize this approach with all of our customers and partners, as digital transformation is a marathon and not a sprint.”
Any plans on implementing your Electronic Tech Log on the cars they use for drag racing?
Karl: “That’s quite the story, with Connie and Kalitta Air. I know Jim is a big car guy, so he’s probably hatching up a plan to get the CAMO division involved in some way or other with Kalitta Motorsports.”
Jim: “I’m working on a proposal now, actually!”
The TrustFlight platform is continuing to scale. Can you speak on any key successes you’ve had this year, starting with the Electronic Tech Log?
Karl: “2023 was a big year for our Electronic Tech Log. As mentioned before, we implemented the ETL into Kalitta Air’s operation, and we’re actively speaking with other major operators now. In terms of key successes, we nearly doubled the amount of flights and flight hours with our ETL compared to 2022, reaching close to 10,000 hours per month.”
How’s the progress with the MEL Manager?
Karl: “Given that the product only launched this year, we’re very happy with the progress. We now support all major business jet and commercial airline types in the system, which is a huge win for us internally and for our customers. In terms of market adoption, we’re already supporting a variety of operations from private and business aviation charter all the way through to airlines, which is great to see. A key measure for us has been a 100% success rate of MELs approved with zero findings from the regulators. I’m looking forward to accelerating adoption of the system in 2024. We understand many operators are not fully aware of the MEL Manager, so we’re looking forward to sharing more information on that in the coming year.”
With all of the positive things happening at TrustFlight, has that translated to a larger team?
Richard: “We now have over 150 employees and contractors across the UK, US and Canada. We have grown every team in the business on the services side and product side, which speaks to the fabulous work our organization is doing. We’re building on our successes by bringing in the right people to take the business to the next stage. We’re also continuing to invest heavily in those that have been with TrustFlight, to provide growth in skills and career progression. We recognize that there are many talented people who are helping us move forward, and our focus is on ensuring that they are supported.
Jim: “On the services side, we now have a truly global presence and are able to support our customers 24-hours a day. This is a big key to our success. When you call TrustFlight, there will be someone on the other end picking up the phone, not a call center or a voice message. We want to make sure our customers have the support they need, when they need it most, especially in AOG situations.”
You mentioned that you made investments into sales and marketing. How do you think that will translate into the New year?
Karl: For us, the marketing investment wasn’t just about the budget or the headcount. We know that our growth to date has largely been predicated on referrals, a credit to the strength of our products and services. One of our key strategies for FY24 is expanding into the North American market. To address this, we’ve brought on a new Vice President of Sales who’s remit is the Americas, as well as a Director of Marketing that has considerable experience within the aerospace sector. We’ll leverage their expertise on sound fundamentals within both functions to address any gaps that we’ve had—hopefully to expand our beachhead into a blue ocean. 2024 looks promising.”
And, for my favourite question, who gets a big year-end thank you?
Karl: “As the year draws to a close, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you who has played a part in our journey this year. To our cherished customers, your trust in us fuels our commitment to excellence. To our diligent employees, your unwavering dedication and hard work have not only propelled our company forward but have also contributed significantly to the safety and reliability that is the backbone of the aviation industry. The industry at large continues to make remarkable strides in safety and innovation, and it is through our shared endeavors that we can proudly say we've made aviation safer for everyone involved. Thank you for your invaluable contribution and for being an integral part of our success. Here's to soaring higher in the coming year!