City company's system gauges potency of plane de-icing fluid

Technology measures level of antifreeze to 'minimize' pilot error

VP Greg McGillis, VP of Titan with their new radar machine that reads the level of airplane de-icer in the tanker trucks at airports December 24, 2008. Photograph by: Ryan Jackson/Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Journal

Titan Logix has no intention of flying under the radar.

In fact, the instrumentation company believes the latest platform of its proprietary Guided Wave Radar system will travel around the globe, just like the planes owned by the major U.S. airline that asked Titan to develop it (they're not allowed to say which one).

The GWR system, which uses radar to measure liquid levels in tanker trucks with pinpoint accuracy, has been adapted to measure the levels of airplane de-icing fluid.

Now Titan is developing the next generation that will measure the concentration of antifreeze in the tanker liquid, a major safety concern for airlines, operations vice-president Greg McGillis says.

"Our system already has the ability to offer incredible accuracy -- at the sub-millimetre level -- and there are no moving parts," McGillis says.

The intelligence Titan is adding will measure the glycol-water ratio throughout the tank more accurately than current spot measurement methods.

Recent federal and provincial smart technology funding will help speed up the development process, he says.

The radar pulse technology is also less costly than traditional turbine flow meters, McGillis says.

"Because ours is an automatic system, the de-icer truck driver doesn't have to worry about managing the fluids," McGillis says. "It's a mission-critical job, and safety is a huge factor."

An Air Florida Boeing 737 that plunged into the frozen Potomac River in 1982, killing 74 people, moments after taking off from Washington National Airport got into trouble because the pilot waited too long to take off after de-icing and should have gone through the process again, McGillis says.

"Our system won't eliminate pilot error, but it will minimize it, and a system that's easier to administer will get used more."

McGillis sees Titan's technology eventually linked to a computerized control room where an operator can keep track of every de-icer truck and all the data they produce.

While Titan's system costs more than the competition, customers typically see a 11/2- to two-year payback time. And if they keep it five years, the cost effectiveness increases, McGillis says.

That's because they built it from the ground up, unlike other companies that cobbled together parts from existing applications, he adds.

McGillis says Titan (TSX V: TLA) which started life as a mining company in 1979 and moved into technology in the early 1990s through acquisitions, has no intention of pulling back during the current economic downturn. It has an ambitious 20-per-cent goal for increased sales in fiscal 2009, despite revenue dropping last year to $8 million, from $9 million in 2007. It expects its existing burner-management systems for industrial heaters and level-gauging product for storage tanks to also grow their market share.

"We're on a four-year road map, and we're very confident about where we are going," says McGillis, a fan of Jim Collins' book Good to Great, which talks about having a BEHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) before your company can make it to the next level.

"We're already the best in North America in mobile fluid-level gauge and control, and our plan is to be the world leader. And we will be the best in the world if we keep developing it."