JetCity Engineering - Breaking down barriers for safer aviation

JetCity Engineering Pty Ltd are testing the boundaries, creating products that had not been previously been thought of.

JetCity Engineering DU-875 LCD unit for Learjet 40/45
Figure 1: JetCity Engineering DU-875 LCD unit for Learjet 40/45

Company profile

Company: JetCity Engineering Pty Ltd

Sector: Transport

Location: Victoria

Profile: JetCity Engineering is the engineering and research and development wing of the JetCity business, a corporate and private air charter company that primarily works in Australia, South East Asia and the Pacific region.

Why R&D is needed

Founded in 1990, JetCity started as a small charter business looking after customers' jet aircrafts. Due to the relatively small market in Australia, in 1993, founder Lorne Cole installed a stretcher in the back of a Learjet and started domestic and international medical evacuations, and organ retrieval flights. The medical evacuations and humanitarian flying segment of the business has grown since then and now forms 80% of JetCity's revenue.

About 15 years ago, Managing Director of JetCity Mr Cole began the JetCity Engineering part of the business, employing a couple of engineers and has grown this area to a team of six. The research and development within the JetCity business sits under the JetCity Engineering banner.

JetCity Engineering rose from the fact that there was a need to improve the safety and reliability of the planes, equipment, and processes (more swiftly), in particular due to JetCity's involvement in the niche area of medical aviation where flights are conducted 24/7 and where reliability and safety are paramount.

JetCity has three key products that have been the focus of their R&D Tax Incentive program applications over the last few years. These include a hybrid stretcher patient transport system, an upgrade of the display unit systems in aeroplanes, and satellite tracking technology system.

In regards to the hybrid stretcher system, before this system existed, there were expensive US manufactured systems that did not suit the planes in Australia and had to be modified at high cost. JetCity saw this as an opportunity to create a system that was more cost effective, and that could fit the different needs of their customers and different safety regulations by hospital and by country.

The second product, a satellite tracking system, was born out of the product not existing in the market. There were no systems at the time which could enable organisations to know exactly where their aircraft were always. Once planes were a certain distance from land planes would not show up on the radar.

As part of their servicing of the region, there are times when JetCity pilots fly into remote areas where there is no radar coverage. Especially being involved in medical evacuations, knowing where the planes are at all times is critical.

“I know where my JetCity aeroplanes are because we developed a satellite based system which is quite affordable that transmits the aircraft position, altitude and speed and a range of telemetry parameters wherever the aircraft is, and without any pilot input required.

“We can login to our web page interface and see exactly where the aeroplane is, right now and it's first-hand information not processed by air traffic control, not processed from some third-party app, it's real time data coming straight to us.

“I don't think we would have done it without the [RDTI] incentive as the risk is just too high, and there is always the possibility that someone is developing the same technology somewhere and we don't know about it, so for us without the incentive we would have basically just stuck to our thing and just kept doing what we are doing,” Mr Cole says.

The third product is an upgrade to the Learjet 40/45 series display unit. The current CRT display unit screens were in the process of becoming obsolete. JetCity saw the opportunity to work with Honeywell which sells modern liquid crystal display units that could be suited to the jet series. JetCity have created a system whereby anyone in the world can buy and import the screens from Honeywell and an installation kit from JetCity and install the display unit upgrade in their Learjet. This is known as a Supplementary Type Certificate, or 'STC'.

The Research and Development Tax Incentive Helps

According to Mr Cole, “there is a lot of research involved and there is a lot of experimentation in creating any system that goes into an aeroplane.”

“For all of the products that we have made an R&D claim for, there have been experiments to prove that something that hadn't been previously been contemplated could be applied to an aeroplane.”

The RDTI has increased JetCity's R&D budget by 25%.

As a result of successful products on the back of the RDTI, JetCity are planning to invest in a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machine (computerised aluminium mill utilising 3D printing software), and hiring more people for manufacturing as they believe they can manufacture better quality products on shore more cheaply.

They are also planning to grow their manufacturing in Melbourne.

“It is very important that Australian businesses are given the opportunity to manufacture in the technology space where they actually have the skill and expertise. Other than a small financial benefit there is no moral benefit or safety benefit in manufacturing overseas especially in the aviation space,” Mr Cole explains.

Since first applying for the R&D Tax Incentive, JetCity has employed two engineers, on top of the original four.
The company has also generated partnerships inside and outside of the country around validation and approval of designs, and certification of the products. Partnerships have included working with Air360 - a Brisbane based aeronautical engineering company.

The RDTI program has enabled JetCity to invest locally to develop improved technology and, according to Mr Cole, “the associations made through collaboration with our peers will assist with future projects and have already resulted in further opportunities for us, and our suppliers.”

“[The RDTI] has meant we could explore areas of technological growth with some assurance of financial support, allowing us to focus on areas of the business that would otherwise receive little attention. [It] allows us to take opportunities that we wouldn’t have the financial capacity to invest in.”

LORNE COLE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, JETCITY ENGINEERING PTY LTD

RDTI Impact Facts

  • Enabled JetCity Engineering to innovate and invest time and money into novel high risk research and development that they would otherwise not be involved in.
  • Facilitated increased employment by the business.
  • Formed relationships with collaborators which has led to further opportunities for the organisation.

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