By Sara Edwards
Two former Silicon Valley executives are changing the game when it comes to logging and storing aircraft records.
Stuart Illman and Roberto Guerrieri combined their backgrounds in aviation, business and technology to create a new digital aircraft logging tool, Bluetail.
“We’re a platform to get those records digitized and up in the cloud on our cloud-based software,” Illman says. “It’s the kind of thing where, in the year 2020, people assume everything is digital, but I’ve seen those things where you have this $20 million plane but you still have those paper logbooks.”
This Scottsdale startup company digitizes aircraft recordings, flight times and maintenance paperwork and uploads them into an online database to make them easier to access, search and share.
“If you’re a maintenance person or looking to buy a plane, you have to go to a hangar and physically look at all of their records,” Guerrieri says.
“We have a cloud-based sharing feature so that you or a maintenance person could look at these records right from their office or their home. We’re modernizing aircraft records.”
Illman and Guerrieri met while working at Apple in the Bay Area in the ’90s and stayed in contact after they left in the early 2000s. Guerrieri utilized software similar to Bluetail when he worked for WebPT in 2013, because paperwork needed to be digitized for organization.
Illman also has a background in aviation. In the ’80s he went to flight school, where he earned his pilot’s license before pursuing an accounting degree at Ohio State University.
“With his software tech background and my business and tech background, it seemed like we had all the pieces and we put together a nice product,” Illman says.
Bluetail launched in May, during the pandemic. Guerrieri and Illman have seen these vital aircraft records unconventionally stored—in boxes in closets or in clothing hampers.
“People can lose logbooks. People could damage them. People could misplace them, and you have situations where a disgruntled maintenance person runs off with them,” Illman says.
Guerrieri says Bluetail is about the content curation, not the creation. The info and the records are already filled out by either maintenance crew or the plane owners. Bluetail uploads those records into a safe place and makes them easy to access. It has more than 120 record-scanning locations where paperwork can be submitted, either by the client or through a bonded courier service. That way, everything is properly and securely uploaded for easy access through the Bluetail app.
“We make (clients) feel a lot better when we give those files back and they’re backed up. They’re in the cloud,” Guerrieri says. “We take the security side very seriously.”
Canal Partners, a venture capital firm in Scottsdale, invested in Bluetail and connects Ilman and Guerrieri with experts and coaches to help work through any kind of quirks that could come up with product development. Todd Belfer, a managing partner with Canal, met Guerrieri when he was hired at WebPT, and the two hit it off immediately.
Guerrieri then connected with Belfer last year to bring his and Illman’s idea to fruition.
“I like the idea of this whole thing digitized,” Belfer says. “I was shocked that not a lot of the plane owners or companies that owned planes were doing this.”
From a consultant standpoint, Bluetail was already in a great place when it was brought on by Canal Partners, because Belfer said they had secured 25 clients without having to raise much capital, something he says is very rare for startup technology companies.
“They built the product and got customers without raising customers. That speaks volumes, because a lot of customers will raise millions before they can get 25 customers,” Belfer says.
Bluetail has been gaining traction with a variety of clients in business and industrial aviation. Guerrieri says they have customers like Fortune 100 flight departments, a government agency and flight schools. He adds that this has also created traction for Bluetail to rapidly expand to other areas of business and industrial aviation.
“It’s a lot of just manual entries,” Illman says. “There’s always a paper trail for anything that happens on that airplane. Right now, the FAA doesn’t require that those records be digitized, but when that does happen, we’ll be ready for that rush of business. It is coming. It’s just a matter of time.”