High flying business takes off

Rapid growth from humble beginnings

MICHELLE SUTTON
Last updated 07:46 07/11/2012
Flightcell
PATRICK HAMILTON/FAIRFAX NZ
FLY GUYS : Company director Hamish Neill and CEO John Wyllie of Flightcell International, with the trophies for the fastest growing technology business and New Zealand's 33rd fastest growing company.

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A Nelson company, one of the fastest growing in the country, started with simple beginnings on a kitchen bench, founder John Wyllie says.

Yesterday the helicopter pilot told the Nelson Mail how he was tinkering about back in 1995 trying to use his cellphone with his headphones while flying, because back then it was impossible.

He succeeded and soon afterwards Flightcell International was born. Simply put, Mr Wyllie explains, that the idea on his kitchen bench led to the development of Fightcell's communication and satellite tracking devices which were used in aircraft around the world.

Fast-forward to today and the company has been ranked 33rd on this year's Deloitte Fast 50 list of growing companies - its turnover grew by 212 per cent in the past 12 months to more than $3 million.

Flightcell director Hamish Neill, who joined the company in 2005, said it had contracts with several overseas Government departments using Flightcell devices in the fight against drugs.

It also supplied products to New Zealand search and rescue aircraft, the Colombian Government, United States State Department, US Army, US Marine Corps, the Australian Navy and the Korean Army.

"We're expecting another order to supply products to 50 more Columbian Air Force aircraft in the next few weeks. We already supply about 120," Mr Neill said.

But, the company isn't stopping there. Back from the US this week to their Vickerman Street office, Mr Neill and Mr Wylliie hoped to double the size of the company within four years.

"Product development hasn't stopped. There are several other aviation products that we are working on, looking at other areas in the aviation market. Our developers are working on it at the moment," Mr Wyllie said.

Flighcell now employed nine fulltime staff, half of which worked in research and development, while it contracted other staff working on manufacturing and product development.

However, Mr Wyllie hasn't forgotten his early beginnings or the need for product development - taped to his office wall is a $70,000 cheque, a deposit from one of the first American orders for a Flightcell device.

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