FlightAware, the descriptively named internet flight-tracking company, has been acquired by Collins Aerospace. The Houston-based company was formed in 2004 by Dan Baker, who wanted an easy way for his family to keep track of where he was off to and when he’d be back home. The idea took off, and FlightAware was one of those rare startup tech companies that was profitable from the get-go. And credit where credit is due. The service has revolutionized the flow of flight information, to the point where it’s hard to remember what it was like in the bad old days when the airlines served as really bad gatekeepers for that data.
The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it is certainly a big day for Baker and company—FlightAware has “around 130 employees,” according to Collins Aerospace’s release on the purchase.
Not everyone is a fan of flight tracking. Over the years, companies have used FlightAware to keep track of where their competitors were going, which sometimes gave a critical piece of publicly available industrial espionage. So blocking N-numbers became part of the business model, too.
FlightAware has, over the past few years, worked to create new products that leverage its data, including targeted flight alerts, display applications for consumer information boards, tools for FBOs and flight schools to track the traffic around their location, and ADS-B integration.
Collins had been a customer of FlightAware, using the Houston company’s data to power its airline data solutions products. No word from Collins yet on what the future will hold for its new company in terms of location, retention of employees or the future of the great idea that launched the company—free, publicly available flight tracking. It is, however, a good bet that FlightAware’s free tracking will survive, so we can all tell at a glance just when Aunt Ruby’s plane will actually arrive so folks can plan the airport run accordingly.