Scheduling the Future

posted on 8th October 2019
Scheduling the Future

Terry Cooper produced his first business aviation software in 2005, subsequently creating the AirplaneManager flight scheduling system. Now he’s celebrating the release of AirplaneManager’ latest version, introducing a raft of new, mobile-friendly capability

“When I was a young captain at a new and growing flight department, I heard complaints from pilots about how they couldn’t see their schedules. Most smaller flight departments didn’t have software because it was expensive and difficult to learn. Also, none of the software was web based, so it only worked on local computers once it had been downloaded. I believed a website would make more sense, especially since the internet had really started to grow and had already proven reliable.”

Charter Matrix was the immediate result of Terry Cooper’s thought process, initially as an online air charter marketplace, but later evolving to become the company responsible for the revolutionary AirplaneManager. He’d created his own system and after a couple of corporate pilots saw it on his laptop and requested copies, he combined his flying experience with a passion for web development.

Charter Matrix was established in 2005 and Cooper remains as president, most recently overseeing the latest iteration of AirplaneManager.com, which satisfies just about every scheduling need a flight department could have. AirplaneManager emerged in 2009, with the aim of: “…allowing companies to send data in real time to help facilitate fuel, air charter, FBO, ground transportation and other services via online flight scheduling software.

“We were born out of the charter market, but I quickly realised that corporate flight departments loved how simple and easy our system was compared to the legacy software systems. Our goal has always been to keep it simple and maintain a flow to its use that makes sense for the flight,” Cooper explains.

By 2011, AirplaneManager was fully functional and rapidly becoming an industry standard, a fact recognised in 2015, when service providers – FBOs, fuel companies, charter brokers – began accessing the site to interact with flight departments. What began as a scheduling tool rapidly became an online community too.

Cooper’s enthusiasm for the product is expected, but it’s reassuring to hear those on the front line being equally enthusiastic. Now Director of Flight Operations at Skechers, Shane L. Carlson says: “I was formerly chief pilot of a Part 135 operation where, over a 17-year period, we went from a whiteboard to a spreadsheet and, ultimately, to using Flight Operations System [FOS]. So, I’ve seen and used no-tech, low-tech, and too much tech – I had to keep a FOS specialist on staff just to manage the platform’s complexities.

“I believe AirplaneManger represents the perfect balance of features and capability, and ease of use for managers, pilots, flight attendants and even our principals. In addition, having them answer my calls when I have a question or problem is really valuable.”

Scott Rodgers, Aviation Department Manager and Chief Pilot at Dippin Dots, says: “For many years we used our own aviation department management program, developed in-house for tracking aircraft times, flight department and trip expenses, aircraft and pilot currencies, and many other data points. When it needed significant upgrade, we began searching for a reasonably priced vendor-provided solution. We knew exactly what we wanted and tried several online aircraft management platforms, but they didn’t flow, were too clunky, or just not intuitive enough… then we found AirplaneManager.

“No reasonably priced online aircraft and flight department management and scheduling program will meet all the needs of every flight department, but AirplaneManager comes closer to meeting our needs than any comparable online platform at the price point.

“Although AirplaneManager is a solid management and scheduling platform for the price, from our perspective its greatest assets are the developer’s never-ending drive to search for ways to improve upon what is already a great platform, along with their excellent customer service and fast response to user needs and questions, something that is often lost in today’s corporate world.”

When Not To Be A Website

Cooper enthuses: “Our new system is a ‘progressive web app’, employing the most modern code available. The site knows when to be a website and when to be an app on a tablet or phone, its smart code scales for all modern devices. We offer an air charter module that shares its foundation with the corporate software. The system can track all staff, passengers, and aircraft, through forward-thinking features we believe are the most modern in the industry.”

He calls the 2008-developed AirplaneManager the ‘legacy’ system but notes that it’s still running. “We plan to transfer all users over to the new version this fall. It is still more modern than most of the software systems out there, but we pride ourselves on being first in the industry, that’s why we made the new progressive web app to replace the legacy system. It gives us so many more options.”

The revised system does everything the previous version did, but better, adding new capability and retaining features that evolved since AirplaneManager’s 2011 full-service debut, including the preferred FBO directory. “We created it out of demand,” Cooper recalls. “Our members are many and with numbers comes the need to offer programmes to fit their needs. FBOs want our members’ business and we are the primary way our members select airports and FBOs.

“Now we’ve established a formal programme enabling FBOs to offer our members a fuel discount in order to earn their business. We only allow one preferred FBO per airport; it’s become very successful and is growing weekly. We recently added Clay Lacy at Van Nuys and Meridian at Teterboro, for example.”

AirplaneManager’s customers are typically charter companies and corporate flight departments, with Cisco and Bridgestone, as well as Skechers and Dippin’ Dots among them. Cooper says: “We work with many fuel and other companies too, including EVO Fuels, 1800WXBrief, FlightAware and FlightBridge.” It really is difficult to keep up but according to the website, early in September AirplaneManager was serving 489 flight departments and 1,612 aircraft with 10,112 active users.

Security, as well as the appropriateness of accessible data, is a cornerstone of AirplaneManager, especially with customers accessing it through desktop, laptop and mobile device. Cooper says security is achieved through a ‘very stable and logical method’. In terms of controlling access, “Customers give their staff individual logins, each login with specific security applied. Pilots, for example, can only do or see pilot-related tasks.”

Broadband Future

The availability and reliability of internet connection was among Cooper’s motivations for establishing Charter Matrix almost a decade and a half ago. Now, at last, broadband connectivity is available not only to flight departments but, in increasingly to their aircraft crews and passengers.

“It’s a dream come true for us,” Cooper exclaims. “We knew this day would come. We also knew a system like ours could facilitate so many services like fuel, FBOs, flight planning and handling. Internet in the jets is allowing our system to connect to the airplane. The owner will use it like we use Uber now.

“The future is very big for scheduling software and we’re making it simpler day by day. It’s more mobile friendly than ever before and at the same time becoming commonplace for all flight departments. Internet on the aircraft opens up new areas for our system, too. We now allow pilots to file and amend their flight plans directly inside the app. They can also order fuel, message FBOs and submit international trip planning requests directly to EVO’s ops centre. Meanwhile, owners and executive assistants are getting much more involved with AirplaneManager and this is opening up many more new options to explore.

“Anything is possible and at the NBAA show we’ll be showing off our future!”