With a second child on the way and the spare cash tin suddenly empty, Bevan Anderson’s wife Rochelle told him that if he wanted to continue flying, he needed to find an income stream to fund his “very expensive hobby”. So he created AvPlan, an electronic flight bag that has taken the aviation world by storm. DEREK ROYAL caught up with Bevan and discovered a man passionate about aviation and technology.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU FLY?
I fly around 80 hours a year at the moment, usually to AvPlan seminars that we hold around the country. My flying comes in fits and spurts; some months I do none and others I can fly 20-30 hours. Very rarely do I go flying just because it’s a lovely day (like I did many a time when I owned my Tobago).
HOW EXPERIENCED A PILOT WERE YOU WHEN YOU DECIDED TO CREATE AVPLAN?
I probably had around 700 hours total flying time then, plus a career in IT gave me the prerequisite skills to start this endeavour. If I didn’t have both of these when I started, AvPlan just would not have happened.
WHAT TYPES OF AIRCRAFT DO YOU FLY AND FOR WHAT PURPOSE?
Most of my flying over the years has been in A36 Bonanzas and these are just fantastic aircraft. I also owned a Socata TB-10 Tobago for a few years, before my second child was born. These days I fly around in a Cirrus SR-22, which is an awesome, fast and very sophisticated aircraft. It’s a real pleasure to fly and very comfortable for the longer trips I do these days. I have a commercial licence, but most of my flying has been for pleasure and a small amount (before AvPlan existed) for business. Trips to Perth and back, Flinders Ranges, Uluru and North Queensland (amongst many others) come to mind.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR AVIATION HIGHLIGHT SO FAR?
In February/March 2005 I took my now wife to New Zealand and back in an A36 Bonanza. She was born in New Zealand so it was a brilliant way to go meet her friends and family over there. We had brilliant weather the whole time and the highlight was flying into Queenstown through the Southern Alps. Snow had fallen the night before but the mountains shone with a light dusting of white in an otherwise calm cloudless blue sky – simply stunning. Before leaving on this trip Rochelle had flown with me (and in light aircraft) for all of 45 minutes. So this was a bit of a test and, well, she passed.
More recently I flew an SR-22 around the southwest United States. Flying over the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains was absolutely spectacular. The services available to GA in the United States are simply incomparable to here – it needs to be experienced to be believed. I can’t wait to get back there soon and do some more flying.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE AS A PILOT?
I’ve always had a dream to fly a light aircraft around the world. We sponsored Ryan Campbell (who established a new record for being the first teenager to fly solo around the world) on his trip a few years back and that was one way we could virtually ride along with him on his journey. When I do it my goal is to be able to plan and fly the whole trip with AvPlan. Soon we’ll be able to say we can do this.
WHAT IS AVPLAN?
AvPlan EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) is a complete flight planner plus moving map EFB all in one. It runs on iOS devices (iPads and iPhones) and we have a lite version running on Android (which currently focusses on the in-flight moving map and flight documents only). It is the only app around which focusses on producing an electronic copy of a flight plan – a flight plan being a set of documented actions established before leaving the ground. In the air it self-updates taking the chore out of managing the flight while still providing a ‘plan vs. actual’ view of your flight progress. All other apps out there act as a GPS unit – very good at telling you based on the current conditions what will be happening in the future. These fall down in certain phases of flight (climb, descent) or when your flight activities change.
PLEASE PROVIDE AN OVERVIEW OF AVPLAN’S HISTORY.
AvPlan was conceived in early 2010 when the iPad was first announced. I had the idea of a tablet app, which would essentially replace my IFR kneeboard that I took flying, one that would be a complete flight planning package so portable you could use it anywhere.
A prototype was up and running in late 2010 and after showing it to a few people we were encouraged to continue. Our first release was in August 2011 and we had a goal of obtaining a few hundred customers. We went through that number in only a couple of months so we realised this was going to be a lot bigger than we ever imagined.
In 2013 we obtained a significant investment from Simon Hackett (who owns and flies a PC-12), which really fuelled our expansion plans. Now we are a company with thousands of customers spanning Australia, New Zealand and the United States and employing five people and still growing strongly.
WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA TO CREATE AVPLAN?
In 2009 when my second child was born the Tobago had to go and any spare cash for flying evaporated. In order to keep flying my wife told me to find an income stream to fund my very expensive hobby. 2010 came along with Apple announcing the iPad and I got busy designing and building AvPlan.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AN ELECTRONIC FLIGHT BAG?
Power and portability. We can pack so much information into our EFB and connect it (via the internet) to various data sources that we can give pilots so much more information at their fingertips than they ever had before. We can do this intelligently to ensure that only the relevant information is presented, and we can collate it and overlay it on aviation maps to give it far more context than it ever had before. We were the first people in Australia to overlay SIGMET’s on aviation charts – an idea that has now been implemented by the Bureau of Meteorology. All this can reside on an iPhone or Android phone and fit in your shirt pocket – its incredibly portable.
HOW POPULAR IS AVPLAN IN AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND AND THE U.S.A.?
AvPlan is hugely popular in Australia. We started here and it is where the bulk of our customers reside. We launched in New Zealand only one year ago and things are growing really well. One thing we have noticed over there is far less people fly with an EFB there, so we are spending much of our time just getting people familiar with the technology. In the United States we have some really impressive competitors, but we do things that no one else does. Once people understand what we do and what differentiates us, it becomes an easy sell.
IN WHICH SECTORS OF THE INDUSTRY IS AVPLAN MOST POPULAR?
It’s difficult to say where and who our customers really are. We see AvPlan EFB being used in all segments of aviation. Recreational and sport aviation are big users as they represent a large number of the pilot population. In GA we offer so much functionality that we’re the go-to app for IFR and charter pilots. The Australian Army is a big user and their EFB trial is progressing really well. Many EMS pilots use AvPlan and we’ve now got a number of smaller RPT airlines coming onboard as well.
WHY DO PILOTS/ FLYING ORGANISATIONS NEED AVPLAN?
Being a fully featured flight planner, AvPlan EFB can do everything that your desktop flight planner can do (and a whole lot more) on a device you can take with you anywhere. AvPlan EFB works equally well on the breakfast table as it does in the cockpit. If you’re using one tool all the time you will be far more efficient than using one tool on your PC at home, and another when you travel, or head back to the paper map and a pencil when you divert somewhere unfamiliar due to weather one day.
I UNDERSTAND AN ANDROID VERSION OF THE APP WAS RELEASED LAST YEAR. HOW ARE SALES GOING AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE iOS VERSION?
Sales of AvPlan Lite for Android are progressing well. We have seen that many of our customers use AvPlan EFB on their iPad and then have AvPlan Lite on their Android Phone/Phablet. We allow our customers to do that with a single subscription.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO USE AVPLAN?
Like any new tool there is a learning curve. We do provide an in-built help system, an excellent and complete user manual, and video tutorials. You can email our support or even call us up or visit our office if you have questions. We’re always here to help.
WHAT ADVANCES CAN WE EXPECT OF THE APP IN THE FUTURE?
2015 is going to be a great year for us. We’ve spent much of 2014 building relationships and writing some really innovative software, which we will progressively roll out as the year progresses. We’ll be adding support for more countries, which will see us become a truly global flight planner – one I can take on my upcoming round the world flight (one day!).
Name: Bevan Anderson
Marital Status: Married to Rochelle
Children: 2, Heather 7 and Alistair 5
Occupation: Managing Director, AvSoft Australia Pty Ltd
Birthplace: Geelong, Australia
Educated at: Sandringham East Primary (VIC), Nedlands Primary (WA), Cottesloe Primary (WA), Christchurch Grammar (WA), and Brighton Grammar School (VIC)
Education: partial completion of an Electrical Engineering degree from Melbourne Uni (1990-1994), Grad Certificate in Business Administration from UQ (2009).
Pilot Qualifications: CPL (1993), ME-IFR (1994).
Total Flying Hours: ~1000