Pathipan Sivarasa’s grandfather was in the Royal Airforce in Malaysia during World War II and he would tell Pathipan and his brothers tragic stories of the global conflict. Undeterred, Pathipan was determined to become a pilot, so fascinated he was by “flying objects…
“We lived near an airport and each time a plane was landing or taking off, my brothers and I used to run outside the house to see what sort of a plane it was and in which direction it was taking off,” recalls Pathipan. “Sometimes, we could hear the aircraft revving down the runway, and we eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of the plane. Plus, I was always thrilled to send something up in the air, from flying paper planes to launching prop discs up in the air.”
Now Pathipan’s team is working to launch something much more adventurous. Indeed, he is captain of the GoFly Prize Team Challengers, a multinational squad that is based in Ottawa but comprised of innovators from the US, UK, France, Australia, Botswana and Canada.
Pathipan says that participating in the global challenge served as the launching pad for bringing to reality “the burning desire to create something interesting in the field of aviation. Though the interest was always there, one needs a starting point to put things down on a piece of paper and work on something constructive to get to some point, and this is what GoFly gave us.”
Of course, going from a piece of paper to building a personal flyer has its challenges – not the least of which is the different geographical locations of the various team members. But just as the technology now exists to bring personal human flight to fruition – from 3D printing to advances in propulsion — current technology, including social media and video-conferencing, has gone a long way to helping Team Challengers overcome such obstacles. The key, Pathipan stresses, is to “turn to the technologies that are available and find the optimum way to put them together.”
The words of his Taekwondo Grandmaster have also been key, guiding him in his professional pursuits, as well as with his GoFly endeavors. “He always tells me and all of his students, ‘You Never Fail…Until You Stop Trying.’”
Pathipan’s own inquisitiveness would never allow anything less. He explains that he always wanted to reason out everything that he saw – “I wanted to know the science behind it. And my good knowledge of physics and general science always came handy in understanding the principles of flying.”
This knowledge also came in handy in Pathipan’s professional career. He worked for several leading military/civil/business aerospace companies and worked on the design and upgrades of aircrafts ranging from fixed-wing to rotary-wing, Even to this day, he notes, “I still can’t resist looking at a plane with the same level of excitement as I had in my childhood. My daughters make fun of me when I get excited like a child when I see a plane flying.”
And does he feel the same excitement about a future in which personal flyers are ubiquitous?
“Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a sky with several flying devices,” Pathipan says. “But there are so many birds flying at different levels, finding their way and doing their day-to-day activities. So, yes, I can envision a sky full of bird-like devices with humans busy moving around attending to their daily routine… or on the other hand, flying for just fun!”
There is still time to join the challenge here: https://www.herox.com/GoFly.
Simon Etlinger may have been only three years of age but the memory of his first time in a plane is as vivid as if it were just yesterday. His dad took him on a flight aboard a Cessna with a friend, who was a pilot.
“The view out of this open door, the air space around us, the mountains, and ground below us, I can still remember to this day,” Simon relates, noting that in the intervening years his dad would deflect any questions about the trip. “I don’t think he wanted my mom to know.”
Anyone who knows Simon now knows that flying a machine of his own creation courses through his veins. Indeed, the captain of the GoFly Prize’s Team EDEA, based in Austria, says matter-of-factly: “Flying an aircraft with my own hands is the best experience I could ever have – it’s only me, my machine and the elements. The world gets small in a moment, like when you see cars driving down on the highway below you. They look like toys.”
Simon views GoFly – which now includes the participation of 3700 innovators from 103 countries – as much as an opportunity to learn and expand his horizons as it is a challenge. He explains that, “you can learn so much from the task at hand.” At the same time, he says there is an advantage to the competition in that there is “one clear goal.”
Interestingly, unlike many of the competitors, Simon’s personal goal in life was not to be a pilot. He often went with his father to lectures about flight at the airport – his father travels a lot for business. And Simon took flight lessons for a time, which he often paid for by landscaping the airport grounds. But he came to realize that, “I’m a technician, and a creator. I never shared this glory aspect of being a pilot. I just like to fly this thing, nothing less, nothing more.”
This “thing” is the personal flyer he is developing for the GoFly Prize. His aim is to create a machine that will positively impact the world of the future – one that will give off absolutely no emissions, help with fire-fighting, and be able to deliver necessities, from food and medicines, to remote and previously unreachable areas. “Only the stars know if I can do this,” he says thoughtfully.
To this end, Simon perseveres despite obstacles. Indeed, he is the father of two small boys and has what amounts to two full-time jobs between working on his GoFly Prize entry and his entrepreneurship consulting business. Plus, he is a one-man team. Nevertheless, he follows what he says is the best advice he has ever received: “There is only one forward, fast forward!”
Think you have what it takes to create a personal flyer, win close to $2M, and change the world? There is still time to join the challenge here: https://www.herox.com/GoFly.