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Avionica is Making Flight Plans

Avionica's assembly plant in Miami

Avonica's 5-ounce flight recorder
Before Avionica created a 5-ounce flight data recorder in 1999, the "black boxes" weighed in at 20 pounds. Today, Bombardier, Lufthansa, Continental Airlines and other customers use 6,500 of Avionica's recorders. For many, Avionica also downloads, processes and analyzes the data.

The flight recorder wasn't the first piece of airplane equipment that the Miami company miniaturized. Founded in 1992 by former University of Miami classmates Raul D. Segredo and Stylian N. Cocalides, Avionica originally made tools that airlines use to diagnose and repair avionics and electronics systems. They created portable, laptop-attached devices to replace the large, expensive racks of computers that were then typical.

But the pair realized there was more potential in selling equipment for use on the plane. "Maybe they'd need 20 pieces of ground support equipment," Cocalides says. "But if they needed stuff that went on the aircraft, they needed 400 of those." The company, which manufactures at a plant in Perrine in southern Miami-Dade, turned its attention to avionics, focusing its ground support business on downloading and monitoring flight data.

Avionica also developed SatLink Irridium, a satellite-based communications system that lets planes stay in contact with the ground even when they aren't in areas that have full radio coverage.

Revenue grew about 10% during the recession. Cocalides says Avionica has also pursued international business, with about 60% of its business coming from exports, up from about 40% three years ago. He attributes the company's growth to being innovative, "small and flexible" and debt free. "We're a very conservative group. It has permitted us to watch a lot of folks that were highly leveraged go down the tubes."