iPhone in Business

Virtual Aviation

“With iPhone we can change the front end of the website through a content management system. We can do banking, we can schedule pilots, we can pay pilots – and the list goes on. All of it through iPhone.”

James Stevenson, founder

iPhone boosts virtual flight.

For Virtual Aviation, business is always ready for take-off. That’s because iPhone helps the company’s small team stay connected and deliver 24/7.

Virtual Aviation buys and sells access to professional ‘full flight’ simulators – £10 million life-size cockpits with real turbulence and a computer-generated view of the outside world. They are open round the clock every day. “iPhone means we can take bookings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” says James Stevenson, Virtual Aviation’s founder and managing director. “With iPhone, our team is just more productive.”

Customers may be pilots sharpening their skills or enthusiasts who want the thrill of flying under the guidance of professional instructors. The simulators are so life-like, commercial pilots are permitted to train on them until they fly real planes.

Virtual Aviation found that switching to iPhone was effortless. “I just popped one down on the desk and people started playing with it,” recalls Stevenson. “It doesn’t really need a manual, it’s so simple and user-friendly. It doesn’t need much IT support at all.”

Working on the fly

It’s crucial that Virtual Aviation’s team can handle all queries and bookings on the fly, whether they are travelling between airports, in-between sessions at the simulators or on call out-of-hours. Using iPhone, staff can liaise with any of four flight training centres in the UK and Spain - including at Heathrow and Gatwick airports– and with the company’s dozens of instructor pilots.

The ability to open different documents on iPhone is crucial. “When we need to make a last-minute booking, it’s either in a Word or PDF attachment,” says Stevenson.“We must be able to tap the attachment, open it up and view it - and zoom in and zoom out,” he explains. “I’ve tried to do that on other smartphones and it was a complete nightmare.” Because of iPhone’s real-time access and push email, the team can then book in clients rapidly, using authentication as well.

“Most of our pilots have iPhones because they offer a fabulous advantage in the simulator. You don’t have to take any paperwork with you— any charts, airport diagrams or weather information. You can get it all through apps on iPhone.”

James Stevenson, founder

What’s more, iPhone’s ability to synchronise over the air with laptops and desktops – via a MobileMe account - makes it even easier to work anywhere. “iPhone’s perfect for being on the move because we don’t have to sync anything before leaving the office - it’s automatic and instant,” Stevenson points out. “That means it’s also like having a back-up server.”

A powerful business tool

In fact, staff can manage the entire company workflow using iPhone. “We can do banking. We can schedule pilots. We can pay pilots. We can change the front end- of the website through our content management system, says Stevenson. “All of it through iPhone.”

The power of iPhone is easing business in others ways too. Before turning to iPhone, Virtual Aviation’s instructor pilots had to arrive in the simulator with a flight bag stuffed with paper charts and maps. Now they can use iPhone applications in the cockpit to access the latest weather and specialist data on airports in any country.

Or to add a personal touch, the instructors can create a memento in the cockpit. “Our pilot can just pull out iPhone, take a picture and email it straight to the customer,” says Stevenson.

Top-notch security

In such a security-conscious industry, Stevenson says that being able to wipe all the data on an iPhone from a distance using MobileMe is indispensable. “If I lose my iPhone, it would be imperative to erase everything,” he notes. “And I can, using the remote wipe capability.”

For Virtual Aviation, iPhone has been more than revolutionary. The company can stay at the leading edge while offering an unusual product – all with an eye on the bottom line. “What iPhone has really meant for us is that we can do everything at any time,” says Stevenson. “So we save time, we’re more productive and we save money.”

Company Snapshot

  • Founded in 1998
  • Based near Stansted, UK
  • www.virtualaviation.co.uk
  • Provides access to state-of-the-art professional flight simulators.

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