Welcome to eFlight Game Changers, one-on-one conversations with the people dedicated to making flight carbon-free by 2050. Our guest today is Roei (ROEI) Ganzarski, CEO of magniX and Chairman of Eviation. Roei joined magniX as CEO, in May 2018, and Eviation, as Chairman, in October 2019. Prior to joining magniX Roei had a distinguished career at “The Boeing Company” as well as tenures in software, investment banking, corporate finance, advertising and the Israeli military.
magniX, located in Everett, Washington, USA has developed a family of electric propulsion systems for commercial single motor or multi-motor aircraft. magniX is owned by “The Clermont Group” headquartered in Singapore.
Eviation, located in Arlington, WA and Qadima, Israel has developed Alice, a quiet and luxurious all electric aircraft, accommodating nine passengers plus two crew, and designed from the ground up for all-electric regional commutes.
JAS DHILLON: Good morning Roei. It’s a pleasure to meet you via Zoom. I’d like to start our discussion by asking you how you ended up leading two of the most innovative companies transforming aviation. Was it planning or did luck, fate and passion play a role ?
You know, I don’t know why I’m so lucky to be in this position.
I think a lot of it is luck, fate, and perhaps the willingness to latch on to it once it’s identified. Something I like to talk to students and younger employees about is, we’re all lucky at some point in our life. Luck will pass us by, or confront us, at any time in any place. And we all see it. What makes a difference in how we end up where we end up is one, can you identify that as luck? And two? Do you latch on to it and say, there’s luck, I’m going to grab it and go with it. And many people, unfortunately, only identify it after the fact. Or see it but don’t latch on and say, Oh, you know, that’s not for me. I don’t know. We’ll see. And then there’s regret.
So, for me, it was important. When I identified the luck that I got this call to say, look, we have this technology, we developed a motor that we think could do something in aerospace, would you like to come make a business out of it? That was luck. And then I said, Oh, I want to see this thing. Because it sounds too good to be true. I saw it and it was true. And it was good. And I said, Okay, let’s latch on, and go for the ride. And so, from that perspective, I think what brought me here is just a culmination of everything I had done, personally, throughout my career, starting in the military, at a young age in Israel, going into various aspects of advertising, banking, finance, coming to the US to study, get my MBA and study finance, work at Boeing for a long period of time, on various aspects of marketing, sales, business development, etc.
Then eventually, leaving the big, secure Boeing and going to a very small startup that was doing real time optimization software, doing some amazing things there. And eventually, as I mentioned, getting the call about magniX and coming here. So, I have been blessed and lucky throughout my life, and throughout my career, to bring me to this point. And now hopefully, we’ll be able to pass that luck on to others as well as we grow the company.
JAS DHILLON: I loved your description of the journey that got you to magniX. Do you believe that what magniX is attempting to achieve can potentially help save civilization’s transportation networks by accelerating the transition to Carbon free flight?
I don’t know that I want to put the saving of civilization on our shoulders. But I will say yes, we come here with a fervor and a passion that is truly about changing the world, not just figuratively, but literally, and I tell this to new employees or candidates who think of joining, considering that there are a million legitimate reasons we will fail and fail miserably. The FAA won’t want to do it because now they are a little more conservative. The incumbents will fight us tooth and nail to make sure we’re not successful because the incumbents whole business model is based off of fuel, internal combustion engines, making money off of spare parts and services, while electric gets rid of all of that. Or maybe our technology won’t work. All legitimate reasons.
But for the few reasons that we will be successful, my God, we will change the face of aviation, as we know it.
True point to point travel via small airports, with the small airports connecting communities like they’ve never been connected before, as they were originally intended to be connected, which is why as you look across the United States, there are over 10,000 airports. Europe has thousands of airports and the same is the case with India. And yet the airline’s only use a small number of them. I think at the last count in the United States, before COVID, only around 500 airports were being used out of 10,000.
Yes, imagine given the existing infrastructure, how you could connect communities around the world with clean, efficient, low-cost aviation. If we are successful, and that’s our goal, that’s what we’re going to do. And so, people, including myself really come to work every day with a passion to make that happen. It’s an amazing thing to see.
JAS DHILLON: Roei, your vision of transforming US travel is super exciting. Could you do the same in India, China and Africa that also have thousands of underutilized airports ? How will this transformation help small businesses in rural areas?
Absolutely for India and China. Next, imagine Africa where, with the right type of propeller utility aircraft, you can basically land anywhere, and because it’s electric and there is a huge amount of sunlight there you can do amazing things with solar. You can have solar panels charging battery packs on the ground. And then when a small utility aircraft arrives, for example an eCaravan, eBeaver, a Dash Eight etc., these utility aircraft can charge their depleted batteries from the fully charged batteries that are on the ground that have been charging via Solar. And so there will be so many amazing things that we can do in the world, let alone serving the basics of commuting in the United States or in Europe where you can completely change the way people go to work.
Further, you will also be able to change the way people get and send packages, allowing small businesses to start competing with Amazon, because they can deliver at low cost, real time, on demand packages. And so, it really changes the way we think about community connection and the economy.
JAS DHILLON:What you just described could open up additional geographies where people could live and work, reducing the need to concentrate in dense urban areas. Are there other macro trends that you are seeing that support the transformation you envision on where people live, how they travel, where they work etc.
That’s exactly right. There have been two things going on in the world for the last decade that have really led to this. And now there’s a third.
The first one is the on-demand economy. Thanks to companies like Amazon, another amazing Seattle based company, as well as Uber, Lyft, Rover, Grubhub, we have got used to living an on-demand life. I can press a button and get a car come to where I am and pick me up based on my requirements; I can get a meal delivered, when I want to eat, to my home, I don’t have to go to a restaurant; and I don’t have to go to a taxi stand or go to the bus stop or take a train. Everything happens at my demand, except for one industry, Aviation. When I want to fly somewhere, I have to see where the Airline has decided to fly from and what airport they have decided to fly to, at the schedule that they have decided, and at a price that they have decided. So Aviation, unless you’re in the top 1% of the world, and you have your own plane, or you can afford your NetJets subscription, you have to fly commercial. This means it’s a supply driven system, not an on demand driven system. And so, the economy is starting to push on demand. And the Aviation industry is going to have to answer that call. The challenge is that aviation is so expensive, because of fuel, maintenance requirements on the engines, overall aircraft safety etc. that it’s hard to support the on-demand trend and cultural shift that has been happening over the last decade.
The second, which is more recent, is environmental awareness. Whether you believe in global warming or not, whether you believe in the human impact of climate change or not, it really doesn’t matter. I think it is clear now to people that the emissions coming out of cars and planes are bad for our health, whether you believe in their impact on the planet, even though again, there’s science to prove that, but whether you believe it or not, is less important. I think we all know that when you stand behind a plane that’s turning on its engine, and you smell the fumes of smoke from internal combustion coming through, you know that it’s not healthy. And, on the environment, economically, people are willing to now vote with their wallets. People are buying electric cars, people are not flying airlines, because of flight shaming. For example, in Scandinavia, the last number I saw is that their airlines lost 10% of ticket sales because of flight shaming. These two trends, these two cultural shifts, the on-demand economy, and environmental awareness, are driving this industry to look at things or to have to look at things differently. And thus electric aviation is really popping up at the perfect time.
Now add this most recent, not cultural shift, but call it a global shift, known as COVID-19. One, COVID-19 has allowed people to see what clean air looks like. Flights were canceled, people weren’t driving, and suddenly people saw what the skies of LA and Beijing and London could look like when they’re not covered with smog, and not choked with emissions. So that was one. Two, people are now getting used to working from home. I know here in the Seattle area there are companies who have said “You know what, let’s just keep working from home. Let’s shut down the physical offices, maybe have some temporary conference rooms if we want to get together but keep working from home.”
Okay, now when people can work from home, we can redefine what a suburb means. Maybe they don’t have to live 30 minutes away from work, even in places like LA and New York where people are willing to drive an hour, an hour and a half to work every day. Imagine if you could fly 20 minutes to get to work. How would the meaning of suburban and rural change in a country, when you can actually go to a runway, fly from there in a very low-cost electric plane that doesn’t make a lot of noise, zero emissions, and with very low cost of operations. You could live in and afford a much higher quality of life somewhere farther away from the metropolitan area. And when you do have to come into the office you could take one of these low-cost electric planes, fly into the city, be picked up by an on-demand maybe electric car, have your meetings and fly back home.
It could really redefine what we think about suburbs and how we think about commerce. Think about the money you could save.
JAS DHILLON: Roei, the scenarios you outlined could have huge downstream impacts on small business and employment in rural areas. Is that the case?
“Mom and Pop” factories that are in small towns and medium sized cities that right now are trying to compete with the likes of Amazon, Shopify, etc. but can’t compete because for them to try and get a fleet of trucks or ship with FedEx and do it in real time is expensive. So they grow in their local area. Imagine if they could afford, in partnership with other “mom and pop” small and medium sized businesses, to hire some of these electric planes to move their goods around. Suddenly, they could expand and offer a lot more services, to larger markets. They can then hire more people; the economy gets stronger. And so the implications of doing this are really global and far reaching.
JAS DHILLON: Your description on how magniX could catalyze an economic boom in small towns is very compelling. This would also have a major impact on people’s choices on where they live, where they work, and potentially on their quality of life? Could you please share your point of view on this issue.
Absolutely, absolutely right. And you can take that even to the next level. Over the 20 years we have seen the whole notion of gentrification of the cities, where the high-tech workers coming into the city are displacing the people who have been living there. A lot of these folks do that because they have to go into the city to work.
But what if you didn’t have to go into the city? What if you could now open a tech development center in a small rural university town and have the students there who have graduated be able to stay there and maintain their quality of life, you know, have nicer homes, maybe more property if they wanted it, along with cleaner air, less congestion, and they fly into the city when needed, if and when needed.
The two macro trends and COVID, I think, are accelerating this notion of electric, clean, low-cost aviation to a point that you could really redistribute where people live and where they work and how they live and how they work. So, it’s really exciting.
JAS DHILLON: Do you believe that electric aviation will enable us to create a more sustainable world?
If this would have happened 10 years ago, then we would have said, okay, well, once it recovers, we will go back to normal, because there’s no choice. But now that we’re introducing this notion of electric aviation, you can operate aircraft at significantly low cost, for example – take a nine passenger Cessna Grand Caravan, that’s about $1,200 to $1,500 dollars per hour to operate and compare to an electric Caravan, same aircraft, same flight for $300 vs $1,400. On the other side, you can now look at what the new world looks like and that you don’t have to return to the same old one, that you can actually transition to something new, which is better and more suited for everyone, both economically and environmentally.
JAS DHILLON: About 150 years ago the invention of Rail completely changed the towns, states and countries it touched. Do you see Electric aviation having a similar impact?
When we look at things we actually believe, from what we’re seeing, the movement we’re seeing is comparable to what town’s experienced 100 – 150 years ago when rail started. When rail came into town, into communities, just the rail station alone grew economic activity by enabling people to come in and go to work across longer distances, while also allowing goods to come in from afar, etc. And so, you had this economic boom, because where the rail station was, you wanted to open up restaurants, and maybe some hotels, and maybe some factories. You could say Oh, now I can afford to open my factory here because I can take the train to go in to sell my goods, etc. etc. Electric aviation will allow the same thing with one big difference. We don’t have to invest in airport infrastructure. It already exists. That’s the beauty of it. The airports around the US, around Europe, around Asia, they all exist but they’re not utilized. Now all we have to do is start utilizing the existing infrastructure.
JAS DHILLON: If the transition to carbon free flight follows a similar pattern to electric cars it’s going to impact some very large companies e.g. Boeing, Airbus etc. How have their innovation programs been affected by the Covid-19 crisis and has this created an opportunity for companies like magniX?
So, the notion of existing incumbent OEMs is an interesting one. The first thing that comes to my mind is Kodak. With Kodak, which was of course, the globally leading film company, the story is that their labs actually developed the digital camera, and then kind of hid it away. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, you know, I wasn’t there. But the notion of Kodak as a business case of not seeing or not being willing to see the global shifts and trends that were happening like people not wanting to print photos, or not having to go to the store or mail their film for development and wait a week for the photo prints, or even wait an hour to get their photo prints from the fast printers to come back and then put them in albums, but rather being okay with digital and looking at their photos on their computer. Even more, Kodak didn’t spot the trend of phone cameras getting better, people using their phones to take photos, and looking at photos on their phone. I think Kodak’s inability or unwillingness to see these trends led eventually to Kodak’s demise. I am hoping aerospace companies don’t go through the same thing.
But we’re seeing similar trends. In the beginning, the big aerospace companies be they Boeing, Airbus, Rolls Royce, it doesn’t matter, seem to be going through the following phases. The first was denial. Electric aviation is not real. You’ll never have enough power. You’ll never have enough batteries; you’ll never have enough capability. It’s not going to happen. And so, you know, let’s not pay attention.
Then suddenly, we started to do things and started to fly. Then it was, oh, wait a minute. Maybe there’s something here but we still don’t believe it. Clearly because it eats up our current business, right? Our cash cows. We don’t believe it. But we don’t want to be surprised like Kodak. So, let’s dip our toes in it. And each one of them, you probably heard, are trying different types of things. Airbus and Rolls Royce joined together to do the E-Fan X, Boeing created the Horizon X to invest in some companies and look at some electrification, UTC, together with Collins Aerospace and Pratt and Whitney started to develop a hybrid-electric X-plane with a hybrid-electric propulsion system efficient enough to make regional flights practical. So different companies are doing different programs. But at a very small scale, and more of a let’s do an R&D type of trial.
Then COVID hit, and what was the first thing all these companies did. They cancelled their electric flight innovation programs. You would think that these companies would have said, oh, wait, with all this risk, let’s make sure our future innovation programs stay on track. But instead, they canceled all of these R&D future programs, and hunkered down to focus on the historic, existing programs.
Now, let me be completely transparent. If I were running one of these companies, maybe I would be in the same position. You have tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of employees that are relying on you and you have a tremendous set of customers that are relying on you, so survival becomes paramount, and all decisions are driven based on retaining your employees and your customers.
It’s a different perspective, than me being an electric propulsion company, or an electric airplane company where this is all we do. It’s a different perspective. So, I can’t say that what they’re doing is wrong or right, etc. I’m not passing judgment. But what I’m saying is, is that that was the first thing they drop, which means that right now, most of the incumbents of the large companies that are in aircraft or propulsion or are not in the electric aviation space.
Now, I’m not complaining about that, as a startup trying to make our way into this space. I’m happy that these big companies are not putting their full force behind electric flight, because that would be hard to compete with.
Think of the automobile industry. It was because Ford and GM, Chevy, Toyota and Honda, didn’t believe in electric, and didn’t put their full force in it, that Tesla could become what it is today, the most leading car company in the world, not just electric. If you look at their market capitalization, they’re bigger than all other car companies. And so, it was because of that, that happened. So, I’m okay with the fact that the incumbents are not in this business. I’m not complaining.
I hope that we have the same type of growth and ability to lead the industry, as Tesla did in automobiles.
JAS DHILLON: What cultural shifts are you seeing in terms of travel preferences. Is Covid-19 impacting customer behavior. How will this change commercial aviation and the types of aircraft that we use in the future?
We’re seeing a number of these global and cultural shifts that are happening in the world. One of them is this notion that people want to go as we said, point to point, smaller communities, smaller communities, smaller airports, smaller planes etc. Imagine the door-to-door average trip today, when you’re flying, let’s say where I am in Seattle to London, let’s just take that example, I have to drive 45 minutes to the main airport, the one airport that has commercial flights in this entire region. I have to get there at least an hour ahead of time, be at the airport with thousands of other people and stand in line for TSA checks, spend that hour at the airport, get on a plane and fly for 9 to 10 hours to get to London, get out at the airport with thousands of other people, only to get on a train or car or taxi to go another 45 minutes to get into London. That’s the experience and for that I pay about $800 for an economy ticket.
Overall, that’s not a bad deal. Especially when you consider the alternative, which is getting on a ship, which will take me a week, two weeks, three weeks. For a very long-distance travel perspective you can’t beat aviation in pricing, and its efficiency even in the environmental aspect.
But when you talk about short flights, if I want to fly 100 miles, 200 miles, 500 miles, now we’re talking about a 30-minute flight, an hour flight or an hour and a half, my door-to-door experience is terrible. I still have to spend the same 45 minutes going to the airport, I still have to be there an hour ahead of time, be with thousands of other people standing in TSA lines, only to get on a plane with 70, 80, maybe 100 other people, only to travel 30 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half, to get to another airport with thousands of other people and drive another 45 minutes to my destination. And this will cost me about $400. So, when you look at the $800 to do my 9-to-10-hour, long distance flight, my actual travel time is about a 12-hour door to door, compared to my, let’s say average 300 to 500 mile flight, that’s a three hour door to door, for $400. Short trips, by airplane, are terrible, absolutely terrible.
The notion of the middle mile flight is completely broken.
Now add COVID to the mix where now I have to be at the airport with thousands of other people. Maybe I’ll think twice about flying and instead just drive for five hours.
JAS DHILLON: How do you see aviation changing for journeys of different distances vis-a-vis the type of aircraft and related propulsion systems?
This new travel environment and the awareness of it is driving people to want to fly from a small airport in a small plane to a small airport. This means that maybe with 10,000 airports in the United States, I can drive 15 minutes to an airport that’s closer to me and I don’t have to go to the one big hub, and I need to get there only 15 minutes ahead of time because I’m flying with 10 other people or 15 other people and not with 100 other people, and there’s only one or two flights leaving that airport, not 100. So, I can get there 15 minutes ahead of time, fly the same one hour or 30 minutes or hour and a half, arrive at another airport with 20 other people only, and drive 15 minutes to my destination. And it’ll cost me $300, $200, or $100.
To be able to do that changes the face of aviation.
So, when you look at that type of transport model, that suddenly opens up a new question i.e. is today’s model of one size aircraft that fits all the right model? I believe it no longer is. When you look at internal combustion technology, airlines figured out that the bigger the airplane, the more money they make, because of the logistics and the fixed costs to fly a 737 or an Airbus 320, let alone anything bigger. You also need an airport that has TSA, you need an airport that has baggage handling, you need an airport that has gates that can come to your aircraft.
You don’t need all that infrastructure to fly a 9, 12 or 19 passenger aircraft. Because you are flying in and out of a small airstrip you don’t need TSA security, because under 19 seats, the pilot can be charged with taking care of security. You don’t need baggage handling because everyone’s going to take their own little bag. You also don’t need gates, or anything like that as you just walk to the terminal, or to the aircraft. It’s almost as if you’re flying private.
From that perspective, you’re changing the face of how flying works.
And so maybe now the challenge is for all the companies to say, if today the data shows that 70% of worldwide airline flights are less than 1000 miles range, and 50% of worldwide airline flights are less than 500 miles of range, what are the best aircraft to fly these shorter routes.
Today, we’re taking aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 that can fly 2000 miles to 2500 miles and are ultra-efficient at high altitude, high speed cruise, and we’re actually flying them 200, 300, 500 miles. These aircraft are burning up a lot of fuel and creating a lot of pollution to get to that cruise altitude where they’re efficient. But they only spend a few minutes at their cruise altitude and then immediately have to come down to land.
Therefore, why don’t we change the way we think about aviation and say, for the short hops, the short routes 100 miles, 200 miles, 500 miles, let’s use a really small electric clean airplane that can go from small airport to small airport
For the 500 + to 1000 miles routes we use medium sized aircraft carrying 30 people, 40 people or 50 people we use an electric plane but it’s not battery powered, but hydrogen fuel cell powered.
And then for the really long ranges 1000 miles or more, maybe we use the existing jet planes with liquid hydrogen or biofuels or SAF, which I think are fantastic.
Now you are creating an updated paradigm of multimodal transportation i.e., the right equipment for the right mission, etc. By doing that you’re providing the consumers, the passengers, the companies, the economies, a much better win-win situation.
JAS DHILLON: Do you believe that electric aircraft will be cheaper to operate and maintain than conventional aircraft? If so, how do you think will this impact consumer choice when deciding travel options for journeys of 500 miles or less?
You mentioned on demand. Imagine today, a family of five, like my family that wants to go on a 30 minute to a one-hour flight to go visit somewhere. If today I have to spend $400 per person to do that, times five, that’s $2,000 just for the flights. Imagine if I could afford an electric aircraft and that electric aircraft will cost me $400 an hour to fly. Maybe I would consider just renting the plane with a few friends. Maybe in COVID I don’t want to have a few friends, just the five of us going on that plane. What it means is that you take those nine seats divided by $400 and it’s only costing me ~$45/seat if I can rent the electric plane on demand. The notion of on demand and what it means to the middle class is tremendous, and what it means to anybody having access to fly their own plane is tremendous. And so we can really start enabling true or as close to on demand aviation for everybody, not just the one percent. Finally, we do it in a clean, non- environment impacting way. I believe this will be really phenomenal.
JAS DHILLON: What is your vision for multimodal transportation and the future of travel?
When you think about the future of true door to door multimodal travel, when you think about that future and what true transportation will be, you’ll eventually have an electric driverless car that will pick you up at your home and take you to the small airport near your home. You’ll get out of the car and walk to an electric plane, piloted initially, and maybe eventually, down the road, pilotless. This plane will fly you to the small airport that you want to get to. Another small electric, driverless car will pick you up and take you to your final destination. Imagine what that world looks like. And you know, you don’t have to imagine very much because electric cars exist today, and companies are working on the driverless part. Now electric planes exist. And companies are working on the pilotless part. So, we’re not that far off from this envisioned future. 10 years, 15 years, even 20 years is nothing when you think about the timescale and the value this will bring to the world.
JAS DHILLON: What strategic partnerships does magniX need to establish to accelerate its growth? Would you share some examples with our audience?
I won’t name who the partnerships should be with because that could change, but I am happy to discuss the types of current partnerships that we’re really focused on right now.
One type of partnership is with leading operators, those operators who understand what it means to lead in the industry, that yes, electric planes don’t do everything that we want them to do today. But they do enough so that they could actually be a first driver of this or first pilot of this, if you will, and start operating them. magniX enables these types of operators to retrofit their existing fleet with electric propulsion.
A phenomenal airline like Harbor Air, for example, that wants to lead the industry from both an economic and environmental perspective. Retrofits with existing operators are what allows the bridge to the future to start being built. Not everyone can wait or afford a new plane. And some people want to start immediately faster, like Harbor Air, so they want to take the lead, so retrofits are a perfect model for them.
Although retrofits are a great bridge, a long and wide bridge, they’re only a bridge to an all-electric by design future. So, partnerships with OEMs are also very important.
These OEM’s are now designing and building brand new electric aircraft, aircraft that are designed to be electric from the very start, and are using our propulsion system for that, like Eviation and the Alice aircraft. So that, of course, is where the true future of electric aviation lies and is truly exciting.
And then the third type are partnerships with industry leaders such as Universal Hydrogen, a partnership we just did recently, where they’re taking a large aircraft, the Dash Eight 300, a 50-passenger aircraft, and making it electric. However, instead of putting in batteries, which will be very challenging, they are developing the capability of putting in a full hydrogen fuel cell system, and a fuel cell distribution system. So now you’ll be able to take 40 people on an aircraft like that at once, hundreds of miles plus, based on hydrogen, and using a clean, electric propulsion system.
And so, these three types of partnerships are the ones that are actively working on and are just examples of each partnership type that we’re continuing to grow. That’s how we’re going to change the industry.
JAS DHILLON: What role does magniX play in the technology integration process with its business partners and customers?
That depends on the partnership and who the operator is. Harbor Air, for example, operates Beavers and have their own maintenance and modification capabilities as an airline. They’re the world’s second largest seaplane airline with over 40 aircraft. So, they did the modification themselves, using our propulsion system.
In the case of Universal Hydrogen, they are working on a hydrogen powertrain, a fuel cell electric powertrain, in partnership with Plug Power and magniX, where magniX is developing one of the biggest electric motors in terms of power levels for flight – which is a 1.6-megawatt electric motor. This motor will be capable of powering a regional class aircraft to carry 40 to 60 passengers – like a Dash 8, ATR class aircraft, and do so in the near term.
In the case of Eviation, of course, they’re an aircraft OEM so they do the integration work themselves. So, depending on the partnership, we participate with, lead, or follow the aspects of the integration itself. From our perspective the important part is that the person or the group integrating the aircraft should be experts on integration.
magniX are propulsion experts. We don’t claim to be aircraft experts which is why we don’t try to do everything.
We prefer to focus on the things that we are good at and that allows us to provide very high value to our partners.
JAS DHILLON: What is magniX’ core value proposition?
Our value is propulsion. Our partners focus is modifying and operating aircraft. So we’re working together, and it works perfectly. Those are the types of partnerships we put together.
JAS DHILLON: The aircraft platforms your team is integrating magniX engines into represent aircraft from different eras at different technology levels, and probably creates unique challenges. How does this impact your team?
The nice thing about all of these programs is the way we have developed our propulsion system.
First of all, the conceptual aspects of integrating propulsion and batteries onto an aircraft in a scalable and modular way are the same. So, although the Beaver is a little different from the Caravan and that’s a little different from the Dash Eight which is a little different from the Alice, some of the learnings from one type of aircraft platform integration carry over to the next one. Alice has fly-by-wire whereas the Beaver is a very antiquated analog aircraft.
Consequently, how do you take batteries and an electrical propulsion system and integrate them onto different generations and types of aircraft is really a key skill that our teams keep improving upon every time we do an integration.
The nice thing is that every platform that we do makes us better, stronger, smarter for the next one, and so on and so forth. Therefore, our current projects with these different types of aircraft, using our propulsion technology, is really enhancing our team’s capabilities and making them very skilled, very fast. It’s really exciting.
JAS DHILLON: Are Cessna, Piper, Beechcraft etc. potential strategic partners for magniX?
I think companies like Cessna Piper, Beechcraft are phenomenal companies. And that’s all I can say at this point.
JAS DHILLON: Give us a bit of historical background on magniX? What is your primary base of operations today?
The company was originally founded in Australia in 2009, so we’ve been doing this for quite some time, learning and perfecting what it means to do electric propulsion. More recently we consolidated everybody into our new facility in Everett, Washington, I’m actually sitting in our new offices. We literally, just today, moved into this facility, which is very exciting. So, we’re now all consolidated here under one roof. This provides for tremendous gains in productivity and efficiency.
JAS DHILLON: What are the top three goals that magniX wants to achieve in the next 18 months?
Our near-term focus is in a few areas. One, of course, is to continue following our certification plan to get our propulsion system certified under Part 33. That’s expected, we’ll say, anywhere between the end of 2021 to mid 2022. Due to COVID we’re maintaining social distancing, with some people working from home, so there are potential delays because of that. But that’s okay. We still expect to get our certification under Part 33 in the first half of 2022. So that’s one thing that we’re focused on.
The second of course, is to support our launch partners such as Harbor Air, Universal Hydrogen and Eviation by helping them to continue on their flight programs related to their flight testing and related certifications. So that’s another focus.
And then the third is, of course, continuing development of our technology, which is something that we do on an ongoing basis.
JAS DHILLON: Thanks for taking the time this morning to tell Eflight about magniX. Your company is creating game-changing innovations in the electric flight propulsion space and it’s been truly exciting to hear the details directly from you. As a final question I’d like to ask you about your company culture. Your team is your foundation. Why do people join magniX? What truly excites you about being CEO?
The team at magniX is a phenomenal group of people. They are amazing individuals and human beings, which is the first and most important thing. Next, they are technically tremendous people. It’s amazing to be the most ignorant person in the room for me, because I get to ask all these questions and learn a lot about what’s going on. And so, the culture of the people here, and what we have tried to create as a company, I think, can be summarized in a few key points.
One is passion. Everyone who joins magniX joins with a passion to change the world from an aerospace perspective. No one joins here for the exit, the proverbial exit of a startup, or the IPO. Because no one in the company has shares or options or equity, including myself, by the way, no one. We are owned by the Clermont Group, which owns and funds the company. And everyone here is an employee. So no one joins our startup in the sense that you know, many people think of startups, Oh, I’m going to give up some salary, but I’ll get a lot of stock options. And then when we get the IPO we’ll become rich and retire. No one does that at magniX. People come here because they truly want to make a difference. And so that passion is contagious and it’s an amazing driver of work productivity and innovation. So that’s one thing.
The second is we have a culture to not think outside the box, but rather to not see a box at all. And that’s a very different approach. Because when you think outside the box, you’re still seeing all the constraints. And so, you can only see a certain level. But when there’s no box, there are no constraints, you can think in a way that really frees your mind and your innovation spirit to do things differently, then once you come up with your idea, it could be a product, the process or procedure, or technology – it doesn’t matter. Only then do we start to overlay some of the constraints. By doing that, as a culture, we’re able to do things that are simply impossible in other companies or other industries, because it would be way too far out of the existing box, even though it works and it’s right. And so that’s another part of the culture is the ability to not see a box where others try to think outside. So that’s the second thing.
The third is the ability to not only be okay with but thrive in ambiguity. If you think about what we’re doing, no one’s done it before. It’s not that the electric motor hasn’t been around for a long time. We didn’t invent it, of course!
But putting an electric propulsion system on an aircraft of the size that we’re doing – five passengers, nine passengers, forty passengers, that’s never been done. Doing that is new, not only from a technology perspective, but from a business perspective, a business model perspective, a regulatory perspective, and a customer perspective, it’s all new. And you’re continuously working in this ambiguous, foggy environment that doesn’t fit everybody.
So, to be successful in magniX, you have to be able to not just be okay with ambiguity you have to thrive in, love it and love coming to work with a plan and having that plan completely collapsing, but then doing something during the day that’s even better than what you thought it would be. And then going home excited about your day and looking forward to the next day.
Those three key things are what really defines our culture, and what really pushes us to do what we’ve been doing.