Tulsa’s SpectrumFX creates fire suppression solution Firebane
TULSA, Okla. — As a long-time commercial airline pilot, Kent Faith knows the very real fire danger posed by lithium batteries carried aboard aircraft in cell phones, tablets and laptops by passengers. That’s why he co-founded a Tulsa-based company called SpectrumFX to market a fire suppression solution called Firebane, which can extinguish the hottest fires, including those begun by malfunctioning lithium batteries.
Over the last two years we have established ourselves and our brand, Firebane, in the commercial airline industry. We have also developed additional new technology products that will be introduced to multiple industries in the next six months. Our agent Firebane is now recognized worldwide.
Where has Firebane been embraced by airlines and regulators as an effective fire-suppression agent?
We have continued to increase market presence internationally and on board about a dozen airlines worldwide. In December of 2014, the FAA reissued a circular to commercial airlines that now adds “Aqueous-based fire extinguishing agent[s]” as a fire-fighting tool to its definitions. Firebane is the only known agent that meets this definition. Now recognized by international carriers we have begun marketing to US domestic and international carriers. We have also established a partnership with Aircare International to market and distribute each other’s products.
There seems to be ongoing and growing concern over lithium batteries on commercial aircraft. How has that benefited SpectrumFX and its products?
With lithium fire events happening almost every day, the airline and other industries are now seeing the wide threat to safety posed by these fires and the inability of older technology including water to extinguish these fires. In addition the use of Halon (a toxic and no longer manufactured extinguishing agent) in aviation is now scheduled for replacement. International working groups are at this time trying to find a replacement, giving SpectrumFX a large stage to present.
How well known is Firebane in aviation circles and with regulators?
New technology many times is received coldly and we have faced many road-blocks by regulatory agencies including the FAA. We can only assume that current fire extinguishing agent producers and large manufacturing concerns and lobbies have had influence on our acceptance. However, since December of 2014 when the FAA contacted our consultants with a request for input in the new circular AC 120-80A, we are find- ing worldwide acceptance.
What other markets are you targeting in addition to airlines?
Our original intent was to work in aviation and auto racing, and we have continued that focus. Aviation has taken most of our efforts to date but the auto racing industry poses a new profit potential with multiple product developments that provide additional equipment that will deliver our agent on a wide range of fire threats. We have also sold Firebane to the mining industry in Africa, and we are continuing research on introduction of Firebane to the oil field.
What’s been the biggest challenge to you in making SpectrumFX a commercial success?
Although our focus on aviation is small in relation to fire threats, the applications for extinguishing fires are limitless. Regulators pose the biggest challenge as we introduce our technology. In every industry we look at there are separate regulators that have to decide the value of our agent. In many of these industries there are stakeholder committees that make the rules. In most instances the stakeholders are our potential competitors, slowing progress.
How has the relationship you established with i2E benefited SpectrumFX?
I can’t imagine how we would have made it without a partner like i2E. We have been introduced to many startups like ourselves and have begun relationships with the help of i2E that continue to help us grow. This must be one of the reasons that the venture culture in Tulsa is so positive. I applaud i2E and its staff, in particular Mark Lauinger, our first venture advisor in step- ping out on a limb to help us.
What’s been the most satisfying part of growing a startup business like this?
I think I am a farmer at heart. I enjoy the planting, the seeding, the cultivation and the fertilizing of our young business. I am ready now to bring this crop to market.