Major US tie-up puts successful Bristol aviation software firm on flight path to more global growth

January 12, 2024

Bristol-based airline safety software specialist Vistair has merged with a major US firm to form a global data intelligence technology group operating in more than 30 countries on six continents.

Vistair was formed  in the early 1990s when it emerged from an interactive Bristol media software company. 

Founder Ian Herbert, now vice chairman, saw a gap in the market for online technical manuals and document handling and recruited IT and airline professionals to build a range of technology-based, cost-saving products.

The firm quickly sealed lucrative contracts with major airlines across the world, including British Airways, Delta, easyJet, AirAsia and Emirates.

As a result, it became the leading player in a fast-growing global market, landing a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2015 in recognition of its burgeoning international sales and securing a £9m investment from Synova Capital, the UK growth equity firm, the same year.

Now it has merged with Wisconsin-headquartered Comply365 to create a leading global provider of compliance, safety and data intelligence technologies serving the defence and rail industries as well as aviation, with more than 120 customers.

Comply365 is a leading provider of enterprise SaaS (software as a service) and mobile services for content management and document distribution in highly regulated industries, including aviation and rail.

It supports the world’s most mobile and remote workforces with targeted and personalised delivery of job-critical data that enables safe, efficient, and compliant operations.

According to the company, hundreds of thousands of pilots, flight attendants, maintenance technicians, rail conductors and engineers rely on it every day for digital delivery of operational manuals.

It has played an instrumental role in the US FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) approval of replacing traditional, paper-based pilot flight bags with electronic flight bags.

Vistair chief executive officer Rob Morgan has been appointed CEO of the combined company while Tom Samuel, current chief executive officer of Comply365, has been appointed vice- chairman of the combined company’s board of directors and will lead the integration of the two businesses. Terms of the transaction have not been announced.

Rob Morgan said: “This merger comes as the result of a shared vision to enhance our product and service capabilities, accelerate innovation and deliver unparalleled value to our customers in the aviation, defence and rail sectors.” 

“I look forward to working with Tom and the team to build on our successes to date and ensuring our customers remain at the heart of everything we do.”

Tom Samuel added: “I am thrilled to join Rob in leading the company. This combination provides us significantly more resources to invest in our mission-critical solutions, better serve our global customers and accelerate technology transformation across the aviation, defence and rail sectors.”

International legal practice Osborne Clarke’s Bristol office advised Vistair’s shareholders on the merger. 

The team was led by corporate partners James Taylor and Alisdair Livingstone, supported by senior associates Jack Wellington and Hannah Stevens and associates Liz Foley and John Annan, partner Marc Shrimpling (competition and trade), partner Michael Carter, associates Will Cashman and Maryam Khalifa (incentives) and partner David Nisbet and associate director Jonny Squires (tax).

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