By Shari Valenta
Do you work behind the scenes in the aviation world? If so, you might want to implement FlightTrak Scheduler software for all your scheduling and dispatching needs. The application is designed specifically for the demands of small to mid-sized corporate flight operations, and is widely used by pilots, dispatchers and schedulers. When used in conjunction with FT Web Calendar, you can check on aircraft availability for trip planning, easily print flight itineraries with the use of efficient drop-down menus, assign crews and create passenger manifests.
Broomfield-based FlightTrak, Inc., owned by computer programmers Karen Martin and Steve Kibler, markets the product and also provides tech support. Martin, a computer scientist and Kibler, an engineer, worked for separate software companies, but met while working together on a project for Aviation Information Services, Martin’s employer at the time.
AIS originally created FT Scheduler in 1982, and Martin bought the rights to it in 1990. Originally written in COBOL programming language, Martin reworked and perfected the software in C++ to make it more user-friendly. Today, Martin and Kibler still regularly update the software to fit the changing needs of their customers. According to Martin, it isn’t unusual for customers to request modifications, which Martin and Kibler hurry to post on their website for download.
“It seemed that all the software out there was so unfriendly, that I knew there would be a good niche for something like this,” said Martin. “We concentrate on helping people do their jobs better and making it easier all the time. A lot of our enhancements come from our customers telling us, ‘This would be really nice if you could do it,’ and we just do it. If it’s very specific, they get charged for it, but if it’s something that we see everyone could use, a lot of times we don’t charge for it.”
At a schedulers and dispatchers convention in January, a prospective customer asked, “What if I wanted a report tweaked? Can it be done, and how long would it take?”
“One of our software users, Marty, happened to be in the room. Jay, who does our training and marketing, knew he had just had a modification done, and asked him how long it took,” Martin said. “Marty said, ‘It took about half a day.'”
With more than 50 standard report variations, practical information can be created, viewed and printed from FT Scheduler. Pre-Flight Standard Reports display FAA information, such as low lighting on a particular runway. Post-Flight Standard Reports can be used to list locations and costs of jet fuel purchases, providing data that can be used by flight managers to compare FBO fuel prices.
Post-Flight Standard Reports can also list flight hours, number of passengers and other useful information. Department managers, maintenance personnel, accountants and other corporate executives use this as an invaluable tool when evaluating aircraft cost and performance. A maintenance report specifies when an aircraft is due for inspections or maintenance, determining when to replace tires, oil and filters. Most importantly, the scheduler will know when an aircraft is out for maintenance, which will cut down on scheduling conflicts.
FlightTrak boasts that searching its application’s database is easy, using FT Scheduler. It has wildcard searches with 8,500 entries, including information on airports, passengers, hotels, FBOs, caterers and limousine and car rental services. The website also has an ODBC Option (Open Database Connectivity), meaning data can be exported into a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel. This option is handy for those who prefer to use their own software to print and organize information. Using the System Configuration Window, calendars in FT Scheduler run daily, weekly or 42-day monthly flight calendars.
According to Martin, customers can be at ease, knowing that the FT Scheduler program is secure.
“Except for the calendar, it’s not a website-based program,” she said. “It runs within the company intranet. We consciously chose to do it that way because of security issues. Encryption capability is getting much better, so we certainly may have software with a website-based option in the future, but we will always offer the non-website-based option.”
While FT Scheduler may be high-tech, it requires minimal training to operate. FlightTrak prides itself on its customer service, and each license comes with a generous eight hours of phone-based tech support (8-5 Mon.-Fri., MST, $50 each additional hour). The company also offers periodic instructional meetings.
“One-sixth of our customers have gone through our training session and only half of those seemed to actually need it,” said Martin.
The basic package, which includes eight hours of technical support, is $2,995 for a yearlong license. With this package, users can perform important functions such as scheduling flights and printing calendars, passenger itineraries and management reports. Packages with more features or continuing technical support can also be purchased. FT Scheduler is sold in modules, so if customers find they don’t need all the components, they don’t have to purchase complete programs.
Martin continues to update her programs every two to three weeks, making improvements here and there.
“I like helping people make their lives easier. I’ve been told that I really understand computers—but I’m not a geek!” exclaimed Martin, laughing.
For more information on FlightTrak or FT Scheduler, call 303-438-8640 or visit [http://www.flighttrak.com].