Last updated: May 31, 2023
Flight Display Systems (now called FDS Avionics) manufactured aircraft electronic equipment for private jets and military aircraft.
In November 2014, we sold 100% of Flight Display Systems to a private equity group. The deal was financed by a business development company.
Thanks to this sale, I never have to worry about the cost of adding guacamole to my burritos ever again.
Our most popular products were an in-flight moving map, aircraft certified LCD monitors, and cabin management systems.
My father started the company in the basement of our house. I joined full-time shortly after graduating college in 2005 as the 4th employee. My biggest accomplishments include hiring over 50 people and building the Marketing and International Sales teams.
My father started Flight Display Systems in 1999.
He worked on it part-time for a few years. In 2001, he quit his job (or was fired?) and started to work on Flight Display Systems full-time. It was initially called Sirius Technologies, Inc and the “Flight Display System” was just one of his products.
My mother joined the company in a full-time role around 2003. She primarily helped in a CFO role, but she was also instrumental in inventory, shipping, personnel, and many more aspects of the business.
Their first employee was Angel Rodriguez, an avionics technician. I met Angel in 2002 or 2003 in Greensboro or Winston-Salem, North Carolina when I was a college student helping my father with a service call to fix an aircraft.
I joined the company in a full-time capacity in 2005. I thought I was just going to help my parents out for a few weeks. Then a few weeks turned into a few months… and a few months turned into almost a decade.
Getting the chance to work closely with my parents and helping them grow their company was the best thing to ever happen to me.
About Flight Display Systems
The company manufactured aircraft electronic equipment.
This is the generic “About” copy that we used in a lot of our press releases around 2013:
Flight Display Systems designs and manufactures electronic components for in-flight entertainment (IFE), cabin management (CMS), and military / special mission. The company manufactures over 160 unique in-flight products targeted at the new, retrofit, and refurbishment market. These products include the Wireless JetJukebox File Server and Media Streamer, the Flight Display System World Wide Moving Map, a comprehensive offering of high-definition LCD monitors in sizes ranging from 5 to 55 inches, Blu-ray and DVD players, custom cabin management systems, and a line of iPod, iPad, and iPhone accessories. Our Form-Fit-Function-Plus (F3P) department builds custom, “ruggedizing,” components for use in military and special missions applications.
1415 Willow Park Way
The basement of our suburban home was converted to a sales room, production line, and inventory warehouse.
These are a few panorama photographs that I made, likely in 2003.
3505 Francis Circle
In 2004, Flight Display Systems moved into its first office in Alpharetta, Georgia. We occupied a small side room of the master tenant who was an electronics testing business. Everyone worked together in an “open floor plan” mixed with warehouse space. Eventually we bought the entire building and expanded into another section.
1765 Grassland Parkway
This is where the company grew the most. We moved here in 2005, initially occupying just the right half. Before we moved in, the office was home to a t-shirt printing company. The floors were covered in paint and grime from the messy printing process.
These photos of my parents from the early days, when the office was still under construction:
More misc photos:
Trade Show Photographs
I loved helping with our trade shows. It was thrilling every year: to meet new prospective customers and demonstrate our products.
If you’re interested in trade show booth ideas, or if you’re planning to exhibit at a trade show for the first time, check out my article 7 Small Trade Show Booth Ideas.
- Our phone number for many years at 678-867-6717. Because of the large number of sevens, this was a funny number to say to people when we would do outbound calls and had to leave a message.
Press Release of Acquisition in 2014
Harbert Private Equity Fund III, L.P. Acquires Flight Display Systems
(Marketwired – November 11, 2014) – Harbert Private Equity Fund III, L.P. (“HPEF III”) announced that on November 5th, it acquired 100% of the assets of Flight Display Systems and its affiliated entities (collectively “FDS”) while also appointing Mr. Reed Macdonald, a prior executive of the company, its Chief Executive Officer. HPEF III’s acquisition vehicle was FDS Avionics Corp. d/b/a Flight Display Systems.
Headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, FDS is a leading designer, developer, and light manufacturer of cabin electronics for business and commercial aircraft, including cabin management systems and in-flight entertainment solutions, and ruggedized special mission military monitors and other retrofit solutions requiring adherence to military specifications.
Mr. Macdonald, who had previously served as the company’s Chief Operating Officer, steps into the leadership role of the company possessing extensive knowledge of FDS’s markets, clients, and robust product capabilities.
HPEF III’s Steve McGrath commented, “FDS is an exciting investment for our fund as we are able to support a market leading company facing numerous growth opportunities, while partnering with an operator that is uniquely positioned to add value.”
Reed Macdonald commented, “I am extremely pleased to have HPEF III backing the FDS team. I look forward to building on the FDS platform by continuing to bring new and innovative products to market as well as enhancing the quality and reliability of existing products through investments in systems, processes, and human capital. This transaction brings significant momentum to a talented team.”
Founder David Gray commented, “I am pleased to entrust Flight Display Systems to the capable hands of Reed Macdonald and the talented management team. I look forward to watching them take the company to new heights and extend the Company’s legacy of value and innovation.”
HPEF III is the most recent private equity fund sponsored by Harbert Management Corporation, which seeks to invest in market leading companies that possess scalable infrastructure and defensible competitive advantages. Additional capitalization for the transaction was provided by Cadence Bank and Fidus Investment Corporation. Advisors to HPEF III included Smith, Gambrell & Russell (legal), Habif, Arogeti & Wynne (accounting), and Renaissance Strategic Advisors (market). VRA Partners, LLC served as financial advisor to FDS while Wyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP provided legal counsel.
To be continued!
There’s a lot that I left out. Including the blood, sweat, and tears from dozens (hundreds?) of people not pictured. I hope to update this page soon with more photos and stories.
The company is now called FDS Avionics. Do you have any pictures or anecdotes from the early days of Flight Display Systems? Please email me!
Original post: November 27, 2018 -- Last updated: May 31, 2023