Airbly flight data recorder prepares for take off

Airbly owner, Chris VanHorn, gets ready to mentor at the Bedeque Business Mash-up on Nov. 4, 2016. Alison Jenkins photo

By Alison Jenkins

Nov. 9, 2016

Airbly, a small P.E.I. business, is shipping out its largest run to date of flight data recording devices to pilots and aircraft owners around the planet.

Owner Chris VanHorn assembles and tests the devices on P.E.I. with his staff of one.

VanHorn describes the Airbly device as a flight data recorder, or black box, for small aircraft. It records position, usage and cabin environment and interfaces with an ap.

“We’re trying to make aircraft ownership easier.”

In July 2015, VanHorn took a prototype Airbly to the biggest small aircraft event in North America, the Osh-Kosh fly-in convention. He set up a booth for a week and chatted with pilots about his idea.

He thought it would appeal to individual pilots, but VanHorn discovered the Airbly market is in clubs, flight schools and multi-owner aircraft. He owns a Piper Warrior with seven other people.

Aircraft must be serviced at regular intervals and while individual pilots keep logbooks, there is no standard logbook for the aircraft itself.

Airbly is filling this niche by allowing owners to see how the aircraft is getting used.

Van Horn gets the circuit boards manufactured in Moncton, N.B., and the plastic casing is made in Marysville, Q.C. He and his employee test the boards and assemble the devices in Charlottetown.

Their first run completely sold out, and the second run is ready to go.

Airbly has been operating out of the Start-up Zone in Charlottetown for the past five months.

“It’s fantastic, it really is.”

The Start-Up Zone provides office space to start-up tech businesses for six months. Airbly has one month left before they fly on their own at an office on Queen Street.