Flight Display Systems

Flight Display Systems 2018-07-01T19:05:59+00:00

UPDATE: In November 2014, we sold 100% of Flight Display Systems to a private equity group. Thanks to this sale, I never have to worry about the cost of adding guacamole to my burritos ever again.

Two people holding yellow signs in front of an LCD monitor

Me and my father, the founder of Flight Display Systems, at one of our trade show booths. Photo taken 25 September 2007.

History

My father started Flight Display Systems in the basement of our home in 1999.

He worked on it part-time for a few years. In 2001, he quit his job (or was fired?) and started to do it full-time.

Busy crowded office area in a warehouse

My father, David Gray, at his “desk” at the 1765 Grassland Parkway office of Flight Display Systems. Photo from 23 May 2005

My mother joined soon afterwards.

My mother, Susan Gray, in the office area. I think this was her desk? It’s more organized than my father’s desk for sure.

Their first employee was Angel Rodriguez, an avionics technician.

Avionics technician

Angel Rodriguez in 2008, working on the bench on some R&D tasks. Photo taken 24 June 2008

I joined the company in a full-time capacity in 2005. I thought I was just going to help them out for a few weeks. Then a few weeks turning into a few months, and a few months turned into almost a decade and all of my 20s.

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.

Office Photographs

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.

office with a map of the USA on the wall

My father used the spare bedroom in our basement as his first office for Flight Display Systems.

Basement photograph with many components

The kids play area of our basement, formerly home to my after-school hangouts, turned into a production and assembly area.

Panorama of a basement room

Component and shipping inventory in an unfinished room in our basement that used to feature a miniature pool table.

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.

White guy with white shirt and carrying white boxes

Me carrying boxes of USB thumb drives to stack on the warehouse shelves. Photo taken 11 April 2005.

Desktop office cube with laptop and computer screen

My desk at the first real “office” for Flight Display Systems, on Francis Circle in Alpharetta, Georgia. Photo taken 10 Sept 2004. Note the plethora of Race Trac cups which were likely filled with diet soda.

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.

Google Maps image of a warehouse building in Alpharetta

Overhead view of the office. At first, we only occupied the right-most half of the building. It took several years before we got the other half.

Exterior of a building

June 2008 photo of the Grassland building, with a big Flight Display Systems sign and painted awnings.

Man in a blue sweater in an office making a funny post

Me in the office, when I used to have long hair. Photo taken 3 January 2006.

Me cleaning. It was rare for me to get involved in manual labor, but I think we all had to help clean the office on Fridays. I like the sign on the wall: “THIS AREA WILL BE THE WORK SPACE FOR OUR FAA REPAIR STATION.” Photo taken 17 September 2006

My friend Danielle Strle visited our office in 2007. We had a company party that day and I put her to work answering the phones! She’s sitting at our Accountant or Purchasing Officer’s desk here. Photo taken 27 April 2007.

These photos of my parents from the early days, when the office was still under construction:

 Busy crowded office area in a warehouse

More misc photos:

Blonde woman at a computer in Flight Display Systems office

My sister Emily, helping to test some equipment or print labels for shipping. Photo taken 30 June 2015

Man with laptop and lots of snacks, pointing at laptop

Christo Acosta at his desk, surrounded by snacks. I called him “The Snack Man” in this photo. Picture taken 6 March 2006

Thermotron blue color in warehouse with man

My father, David Gray, with the Thermotron that he bought to help test equipment with. I know he doesn’t know I took this picture because he’s not smiling. (He taught me to always smile for pictures.) Photo taken 15 February 2006

Three people inside an office

Early employees (and one intern!) at the Grassland office. That’s Angel, on the right. Photo by my mother!

Two women and parts of electronic components on a table

Angie and Lisa, two technicians at Flight Display Systems. They helped with soldering and technical assembly. Photo taken 28 November 2005.

Group of people in a conference room

We took this picture on my birthday, 8 December 2005. Everyone in the company except for Gwen and Jay gathered in the conference room.

Trade Show Photographs

I loved helping with our trade shows. It was thrilling every year.

Yellow table and electronic equipment on top, me standing behind it with my arm on a computer

This is the earliest image that I have of me helping out my father: 19 May 2001, at a regional air show in Georgia. Note the CRT monitor!

NBAA 2005. Left to right – Tom Austin, David Gray, Jay Healey, me, and Angel Rodriguez. Not pictured: Susan Gray, JJ Manton. Back at the office: Pat, Lisa, Gwen, Jeffrey, Lucas, and Osvaldo. Photo taken 17 November 2005.

Home built trade show booth

Our booth at the NBAA 2006 trade show looked nothing like any other company’s. I remember us thinking, “It’s way too busy.” But this turned out to be our best trade show ever. It kept getting better.

NBAA 2008. We had a bigger team! Everyone who attended except for Jay Healey is shown here. Photo taken 7 October 2008.

Trade show booth AIX 2010

Me and our booth at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2010 in Hamburg, Germany

Anecdotes

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.

Do you have any pictures or anecdotes from the early days of Flight Display Systems? Please email me!