Have you ever noticed in movies, anytime something goes wrong with an airplane, the pilot starts tapping on the fuel gauge? As Scott Philiben, President of Bend-based CiES explains, “That actually comes about because small to medium size aircraft haven’t been able to reliably and effectively measure fuel.”
The problem is so well known across the industry that pilots are taught not to trust their fuel gauge but to rely instead on calculations of their aircraft’s fuel burn per flight hour. According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) ’23.1337(b), “the gauge cannot be depended upon for checking the fuel quantity in a tank. This is especially true of smaller, less sophisticated general aviation aircraft. Visual or physical checking or both are the only safe means of determining the actual quantity of fuel onboard such aircraft.”
Philiben launched CiES in 2010 after working with industry partner Cirrus to solve this critical problem by using patented digital sensor technology that allows accurate fuel measurements to be displayed on screen in the cockpit. “If pilots have accurate information in the cockpit, they are able to make better decisions about when they need to land,” said Philiben.
Over the last decade, the Bend-based company has grown to be the largest supplier of fuel quantity measuring systems in the world. CiES provides fuel-sensing systems to new aircraft manufacturers and is certified for retrofitting dozens of older airplane models. CiES’ magnetic field sensing technology is the preferred product for Garmin Aviation Displays and is used by customers around the world including Cirrus, Cessna and Daher aircrafts.
The company saw a 40% growth in sales in 2020 – 2021 and has sold over 100,000 units since 2010, bringing an estimated $50 million in revenue back into the local economy. According to a recent article in Fortune, private aviation has seen record growth since the start of the pandemic with monthly private flights up 30% since 2019.
Philiben explained that a growing interest in private aircraft travel for convenience as well as modernization of aircraft that makes it less daunting to learn how to fly have created a real boom market for small aircraft manufacturers.
“Personal aviation transportation is an emergent technology field. There are billions of dollars in investment being made by major players in the transportation industry, such as Toyota, Boeing, Airbus, and major airlines. A growing part of this push is autonomous flight; requiring no pilot or pilot skills to operate a plane.”
Philiben continued, “CiES basically builds intelligent and accurate sensing systems. This core capability is being expanded into a larger range of products like angle of attack, haptic systems, throttles, and flight controls. These systems and interfaces as well as accurate fuel quantity will be necessary for safe autonomous or semi-autonomous flight.”
Central Oregon offers the right mix of talent and resources to attract a diverse group of aviation companies to operate in the area. With three General Aviation and Commercial/GA airports and a growing regional airport, the aviation industry has an important place in the region with companies like Stratos Aircraft, KDE Direct, Kawak Aviation, Composite Approach, Epic Aircraft, and RDD Enterprises all calling Central Oregon home.
As a Titanium level EDCO member, CiES is actively engaged in fostering continued industry growth and diversification in Central Oregon. Next year, CiES will move into the former KOHD studio building in Bend, which will allow them to do more intensive manufacturing in-house. The company is looking to bring an electric braking system to market amid growing sales in parcel delivery and marine and helicopter sensing systems.
Philiben spoke of future innovation, saying, “CiES is positioned ideally as an FAA-certified manufacturing facility and is presently working with several manufacturers to support a larger range of products. We are continuing to see double-digit expansion and growth, especially as we move into our new facility next year. You think it’s a small market, but we really captured an interesting niche that has allowed us to scale very organically.”