I would like to start this story by diving deep into the brain of my business partner, Bill Strahan. You might call Bill a genius of sorts, though he would blush at the description. Bill is one of those guys that juggles ten ideas at any given moment. In 2001, Bill created a laptop-based moving-map tool as one of his numerous side hobbies. An adventurous flight trip through Mexico was the tool's maiden voyage. Over the next few years this moving-map’s capabilities continued to evolve. I am Bill’s longtime friend, Walter Boyd, and I was on that fated trip through Mexico with Bill. That adventure would inspire me to attain my private pilot's license. Being in the tech-travel industry helped me to latch on to Bill’s moving-map idea immediately. Bill and I had both dedicated our adult lives to designing, building, and managing software development initiatives for other companies. We shared a vision of marrying our software engineering skills with our passion for aviation. This prototype moving-map tool gave that dream a little spark. But it would take years to finally manifest.
During this time I was V.P. of Product Development for a successful software development company in the corporate travel industry. In 2005, this rapidly growing company merged one too many times, causing me to part ways. Having a bit of time on my hands, I harvested one of Bill’s ideas and with his help we started the Adventure Pilot website. AdventurePilot.com was designed to help motivate pilots to get out of the pattern and stretch their wings. Utilizing Bill’s mapping engines on the site enabled searching and mapping to unique flying destinations. Over the years, Adventure Pilot has become well known among pilots who fly for the love of flight, and is now edging toward 10,000 members. After establishing Adventure Pilot, I resumed work in my old industry as an independent consultant helping travel companies build software. But Adventure Pilot remained a great hobby.
When the economy went sour in 2009, my consulting work dried up. I found myself with time to spare. Remembering another ‘toy’ Bill had been working on sparked an idea in my mind. In 2008, Bill purchased a hand-held CE based touch screen computer. Creating a sectional-viewing tool allowed Bill to scroll around on the computer rather than dealing with a stack of paper sectionals. Although he was developing an inventive idea, the success of one of Bill’s other companies caused him to shelf the idea. With time on my hands, I convinced Bill to pull the idea off of the shelf and help me develop something that I always wanted: a really good sectional-based GPS. He agreed and the next adventure began.
A few items had to be developed immediately. To see sectional maps on the GPS required a wider screen. And there needed to be a simple touch-screen interface for flight planning. It became a necessity to be able to view the IFR plates and have quick access to airport frequencies and runway information. We were simply creating a tool we, as pilots, wanted; though it could not be found in a single unit at that time. The race was on. I spent the next few months perfecting Bill’s idea with his consultation throughout the project. To keep costs down, we used off-the-shelf hardware. Data freely provided by FAA would underpin all the databases and charts. We also understood that the GPS unit had to be easy to enhance and update. Rather than create something that would change the world of flight GPS units, we wanted something that would provide immediate benefit to a whole lot of pilots. We wanted a GPS that could evolve in features and capabilities over time, without having to buy a whole new GPS. The result of our adventure was the iFly 700 GPS.
Our product, the iFly 700 GPS, is the culmination of our years of expertise in the travel and technology industry. So what makes this product different from our competitors? First of all, $549 makes the iFly 700 the most affordable GPS unit solely dedicated to aviation. Not only that, the annual subscription to keep sectionals, approach plates, airport diagrams, software, AFD data and etc. is only $69 a year. Now, any pilot can afford to own an aviation GPS. But that is just the beginning. The 7" touch screen blows away the competition. The iFly 700 background map is sectional: exactly like the paper maps pilots are trained to use. The iFly 700 user interface is simple and intuitive: Swipe your finger across the screen to scroll, “Rubber–band” your route by touch and drag, touch an airport go get all the AFD data or approach charts, and much more. New capabilities are already in development; such as ADS/B weather and traffic, and audible terrain and SUA warnings.
Our goal is not to turn the industry upside down. We just want to provide like-minded adventure pilots with a state-of-the-art GPS that is affordable in the current economy. The aviation market is full of GPS units that are expensive, small, slow, and complicated. The iFly 700 is fast, inexpensive, an ideal size, and contains the most essential features for an aviation GPS. I’ve heard it said a few times that “this sounds too good to be true” or “is this for real?". I am happy to say that it is not too good to be true and it is for real. It is amazing how a clever idea, a little bit of time and a need in the market can take two guys to a place they never imagined. And now a world of pilots can reap the benefit.