Managers buy Chelton, S-Tec

Deal closed April 16

April 22, 2014

A new iteration of the S-Tec autopilot for fixed wing aircraft is in development. Photo courtesy of Genesys Aerosystems Group.

Chelton Flight Systems and S-Tec Corp., long subsidiaries of Cobham (doing business as Cobham Avionics), have a new parent and new owners—the same people who have been running the companies for years.

Roger Smith, president and general manager of the newly formed Genesys Aerosystems Group, said the company will continue to grow its customer base in the general aviation fixed-wing, helicopter, and special missions markets, and continue to develop a new fixed-wing autopilot first announced in 2013. The major change, which came about quickly and culminated with a closing April 16, is that Smith and fellow managers bought the two companies from Cobham—which will continue to serve defense and aerospace markets—for an undisclosed sum.

“We just seized that opportunity to do what we believe in,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “It’s a shift, based on business as usual and shifting into business as we want it to be. As a smaller company, we can offer better flexibility and service to the customers and continue to drive the technology.”

Smith said the helicopter market, particularly medical helicopter operators, has embraced HeliSAS, a two-axis helicopter stability and autopilot system first certified in 2009, which is gaining an increasing market share, particularly among air-medical operators. The new company will also continue to produce (and develop) glass panel avionics that have gained popularity in special-missions applications. Chelton Flight Systems was founded in 1997, and developed the first FAA-certified synthetic vision flight display with highway-in-the-sky and integrated wide area augmentation system (WAAS) GPS. Now certified for more than 700 aircraft types, Chelton’s electronic flight information system (EFIS) offers “a very dense functional capability, which appeals to those (special missions) operators,” Smith said.

The new company, Smith said, will continue to develop high-end glass cockpit solutions, and the new autopilot will be designed with turboprop and jet aircraft in mind.

“It’ll move up more comfortably into the higher end of Part 23 and the lower end of Part 25,” Smith said.

Chelton Flight Systems co-founders Gordon Pratt and Rick Price are also among the managers who struck the recent deal with Cobham.  

Chelton and S-Tec were united under Cobham ownership in 2007, when Cobham purchased S-Tec, a major manufacturer of general aviation autopilots, for $38 million.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore | Online Associate Editor, AOPA

AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.