Three Aer Lingus pilots use downtime to raise €528,000 for their start-up

14 Aug 2020

Justin Perry, CEO of Frequency. Image: Frequency

A group of pilots grounded during the Covid-19 pandemic have put the downtime to use, raising nearly €530,000 for their airline communications start-up.

A start-up founded by a group of Aer Lingus pilots has raised €528,000 in funding.

After Covid-19 restrictions grounded planes, pilots Justin Perry, Darach O’Comhrai and Kris Vansteenkiste used their downtime to launch a crowdfunding campaign for their start-up, Frequency.

Frequency is developing an internet-based communication system that aims to ensure critical communication lines between the aircraft, line maintenance and operations control are kept open at all times.

According to the team, this can drastically improve decision-making and communication transfer during airline turnarounds.

Funding Frequency

The pilots, who have a combined 40 years’ experience in aviation, began a campaign on Spark Crowdfunding that raised €278,000 within 30 days. Frequency then received a further investment of €250,000 from Enterprise Ireland.

“Everything came together during lockdown,” Perry said. “We weren’t flying so we had extra time to do fundraising. It has been a benefit to us. We are also getting airtime with airlines. Previously they were so busy, but now have the time to talk to us.”

Spark Crowdfunding founder and CEO Chris Burge said that Frequency’s recent raise on the platform shows that there is “still an appetite to invest” despite the economic challenges that have arisen as a result of the Covid-19 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-19,” Burge said.

“It is 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.”

Frequency’s system

Perry, who is an Aer Lingus first officer, said that the business idea was inspired by the pilots’ frustration using an overly complex communications system that relies on inefficient, unreliable and dated forms of tech.

He said that airlines currently use a combination of very high frequency radios, high frequency radios, mobile phones, landline phones, satellite phones, email and aircraft data link communication systems – so things can get confusing.

“We were having a terrible day with delays and trying to talk to the right people,” Perry added. “We were giving out about communications and the systems. We’d call one person who would then call the aircraft engineer who then talks to maintenance.

“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 boarding agents, it can quickly save hundreds of dollars.”

Frequency aims to replace existing systems, providing communications tech with minimal capital expenditure, no range issues and no line-of-sight issues, which can run in parallel with existing systems before replacing them. According to Perry, Frequency’s tech enables pilots and airport staff to communicate through voice, text, photo and file with better sound quality than existing solutions.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic