Our corporate sponsor Pratt & Whitney believes that powered flight has transformed—and will continue to transform—the world. It’s an engine for human progress and an instrument to rise above. That’s why the company works with an explorer’s heart and a perfectionist’s grit to design, build, and service the world’s most advanced and unrelenting aircraft engines.
Over the summer, at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England, Pratt & Whitney unveiled their commitment to joining the GoFly community, announcing their sponsorship of the Disruptor Award, which will be presented to one team that is truly innovative, going beyond in developing their personal flying device for the competition.
For Pratt & Whitney, the partnership with the GoFly Prize Challenge felt like a natural fit. “Both organizations believe in innovation, and pushing the boundaries of the future of flight,” Colleen Lynch, communications manager, employer of choice and recruitment, at Pratt & Whitney, said in an interview. What’s more, Lynch said that beyond eagerly watching GoFly Teams try their hand at building personal flyers, Pratt & Whitney hopes that GoFly will bring excitement to the industry and inspire a new generation to show interest in aviation careers.
Below, Lynch shares Pratt & Whitney’s perspective on the competition and offers some advice to participants.
GoFly: What’s it like to work at Pratt & Whitney? What do you find most rewarding about the organization?
Colleen Lynch: The thing about Pratt & Whitney is there are so many opportunities to not only learn about the various fields within the aviation industry but also to grow your career around the world. You could start in our East Hartford, Connecticut headquarters. Then, in a few years, you might want to take advantage of an opportunity and go work in our Singapore location.
Our employees have a wonderful opportunity to utilize our Employee Scholar Program, and continue their education in areas that interest them. Whether it’s getting your master’s or finishing your bachelor’s, there’s a lot of room for growth because the Employee Scholar Program pays for tuition, academic fees, and books at approved educational institutions.
GoFly: Why is it important for Pratt and Whitney to support the GoFly Prize? How does it align with some of your initiatives?
Lynch: The GoFly Prize is in great alignment with Pratt & Whitney because both organizations believe in innovation and pushing the boundaries of the future of flight. We’re really excited to see what teams will be coming up with and developing.
GoFly: What are some of your hopes for the winners of Phase II, and beyond that? What kinds of personal fliers would you want to see take flight?
Lynch: What’s unique about Pratt & Whitney is that our employees have this natural curiosity around aviation and the future of the industry. Seeing what others that have that same curiosity are coming up with and designing is exciting. We can’t wait to see all the different innovations and iterations of personal flight. It’s an opportunity for us to learn as well.
GoFly: What are some of your expectations for the winner of the Disruptor Prize?
Lynch: We’re looking at the Disruptor Prize with our eyes wide open. We are not putting in any major parameters. We want to see what these teams develop, and how they are disrupting the industry because it might be a learning opportunity for us. A broad mindset allows us to look for that next big thing. These teams have already demonstrated a huge amount of innovation and curiosity, so the Disruptor Prize is going to be a really fun award for us to review. It gives us the opportunity to reward that team that has gone beyond to come up with something really cool.
GoFly: What do you think some of the biggest challenges for competitors will be as we continue further into the competition?
Lynch: Teams are getting to the stage where they have to prove their concepts, so that’s going to probably present some opportunities and challenges. As they keep reiterating their designs, there will be difficulties. But, these teams have risen to the occasion time and time again, so we know they can do it.
GoFly: With Phase III underway, what advice do you have for GoFly Prize competitors?
Lynch: Just keep going. There’s going to be frustration along the way. It might seem impossible, but you’ve made it this far, so keep going. And remember: At Pratt & Whitney, we have mentors available on our legal team, our social media team, and, of course, two of our really great engineers are available as well. So, use the mentors not only from Pratt & Whitney, but also from other sponsors of the competition. Use their expertise and their experiences to help you as you move forward.
GoFly: If you could say one thing to the entire innovator community, not just Phase III teams, what would it be?
Lynch: Here at Pratt & Whitney, we’re calling the curious. Advancing the future of flight is what we do every day around the world with over 41,000 employees. If you have what it takes, we want to hear from you.
GoFly: If you had your own personal flying device, where would you fly and why?
Lynch: I just went to London for the first time and that was really great. My daughter would probably want me to choose Barcelona. Actually, a friend of mine and her daughter recently traveled to Morocco, and that would be really interesting to see. If I had a jetpack and could zoom off there, how great would that be?
The Vertical Flight Society has connected VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft enthusiasts, engineers and innovators since the birth of the helicopter industry. Founded as the American Helicopter Society in 1943, the institution helped the helicopter evolve from a widely dismissed invention, to a vitally important form of transportation.
Today, a similar path is unfolding for new technologies like drones and personal flying devices. In the following Q&A, Vertical Flight Society Executive Director Mike Hirschberg discusses how the VTOL industry has transformed, and looks ahead to what’s next.
GoFly: What drew you into the aviation industry?
Mike Hirschberg: It’s the most exciting industry there is. Many people are drawn to it because it comes with the challenge of solving complex problems, such as building totally new aircraft to fulfill new needs.
To do something that nobody has successfully done before is exciting and inspiring. There is an openness to disruptive ideas in this industry, and there are people in this space who want to take advantage of that spirit of innovation and push boundaries.
GoFly: What role has the Vertical Flight Society played in aviation?
Hirschberg: We’ve embraced all types of vertical flight since our formation. If it’s got a propeller, fan, rotor, or anything that spins to create vertical lift or thrust, it qualifies as a VTOL aircraft.
Over the past 75 years, we’ve amassed a tremendous body of technical knowledge about vertical flight, including many different technologies that are available to people who are developing vertical flight aircraft. Today, we provide the world’s largest forum and community for vertical flight enthusiasts, engineers and technologists, and connect them through conferences, networking opportunities, publications and meetings.
GoFly: What’s the current state of the VTOL industry?
Hirschberg: Look back 75 years to the birth of the helicopter—the first successful vertical flight aircraft. Nobody could imagine how useful it would be. Helicopters were originally dismissed as silly toys. They couldn’t really do anything because they were so underpowered, and they didn’t have any payload capability or the endurance of a conventional airplane. They weren’t reliable or safe.
But over the years, the helicopter has matured into a very robust and capable aircraft. Today, we’re in the same situation with electric VTOL. The aviation establishment sees electric aircraft as immature technology, but nevertheless, people are developing, building, and flying these aircraft. It’s happening in spite of the doubts.
GoFly: What do Phase II competitors need to do in order to succeed in the building phase of the GoFly Prize challenge?
Hirschberg: The GoFly Prize challenge is an incredibly difficult one—to win, a device has to have long endurance, it has to be small, and it has to be low noise. People who aren’t encumbered by the constraints of what they think are inviolable laws of aircraft design will thrive in this competition.
Safety is paramount. We advise competitors to look at the body of knowledge that has been developed for the past three-quarters of a century around vertical flight, and make sure that they properly mix innovative ideas with a clear-eyed and sound approach to system safety and reliability.
GoFly: What’s the future of personal flight?
Hirschberg: The Phase One-winning designs of the GoFly prize are just the beginning. There has been ongoing advancements in computer modeling of components, and in aircraft and computer simulation. There are also advancements in composites, thanks to low cost manufacturing like 3D printing, and innovative propulsion approaches, such as electric motors. There’s all this maturing technology now, ready to be blended with tremendous creativity. To use an old cliche, the sky is the limit.
Designing and building a personal flying device is hard enough, but making it safe for use by the public is a whole other challenge. For the teams competing in the GoFly Prize, safety will be a priority, and their aircraft will have to meet strict standards to ensure their security.
According to Jon Beatty, president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation, a GoFly Prize partner, there’s no way to completely eliminate risk in flight — we are, after all, defying gravity. But, understanding the specific sets of risks involved with different aspects of aviation, including takeoff, landing and everything in between can help mitigate potential threats.
In the Q&A below, Beatty explains why assessing risk will be key for GoFly Prize teams.
GoFly: What made you pursue a career in the aviation industry?
Jon Beatty: My father was an aerospace engineer, and he always seemed to enjoy it. It led to him having a full and exciting career. I remember him being excited about going to work every day. There was a great sense of camaraderie among the people that he met through aviation. It inspired me to follow a similar path.
GoFly: What about the GoFly Prize challenge drew your attention? What made you want to partner with GoFly?
Beatty: The GoFly Prize challenges the minds and hearts of all aviators to think outside the box and consider how they can develop safe, quiet, near vertical takeoff and landing personal flying devices. The way that aviation is going, that’s truly the next frontier.
GoFly: Safety is going to be very important for our competitors. What recommendations do you have for them with regard to making sure that the aircraft is safe and secure?
Beatty: The biggest challenge that the aviation industry is facing today is complacency. People have been lulled into a false sense of security that flying is completely safe and that there is no risk, that gravity doesn’t exist, and that all risks have been mitigated. That’s why complacency worries me the most.
People have to remember that safety is not about eliminating risk. It’s about identifying and mitigating risk associated with different parts of flight — takeoff, landing, et cetera — to an acceptable standard. The biggest thing that competitors need to avoid is complacency. They also have to anticipate all the risks involved with flying in general, as well as their specific device.
GoFly: As flying becomes more personalized and available to more individuals, how can the aviation community keep flying safe?
Beatty: The industry today has made phenomenal strides in the areas of safety, professionalism, and standards. As we start to integrate new and innovative types of aircraft into the national air systems, whether they are personal flying devices, drones, or other unmanned aircraft systems, the key is leveraging the existing regulations as well as developing new common standards so that everyone that shares the national airspace sticks to certain standards.
GoFly: What will be the biggest challenge for our competitors from here on out?
Beatty: The biggest challenge for our innovators is going to be production. Developing the ideas and creating proposals is really the easy part. The real challenge is going to be producing the devices and turning ideas into actual product — that’s where we’re going to see a lot of the competitors start to fall out.
The best way to avoid falling victim to this part of the competition is to not try to do it all alone. Leverage and learn from all the experienced professionals who are out there and who have offered their help, whether it’s mentors, masters, universities, or organizational partners. My advice would be to take advantage of the help that’s available.
GoFly: Where would you fly on your very own personalized flying device?
Beatty: If I had my very own personal flying device, I would fly to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Flight enthusiasts are a tightly knit group. United by their love of flying, they often share a passion not only for being up in the air, but also for designing and building the aircrafts that take them there.
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) brings these dedicated individuals together, offering them an avenue to connect with fellow aviation aficionados, share ideas, test new machines and devices, and look ahead to the future of flight. As a GoFly Prize partner, the EAA has extended discounted membership invitations to GoFly prize competitors.
In the Q&A below, Dave Chaimson, vice president of marketing and business development at the EAA, shares what makes the aviation community unique, and explains why it’s important for GoFly Prize competitors to leverage the vast network of resources and support available to them.
The following is an edited transcript of the discussion.
GoFly: When did you first fall in love with flight?
Dave Chaimson: I’ve always had a fascination with flight and I’ve been coming to EAA’s AirVenture Oshkosh [an annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts] since the 80s. I didn’t have the opportunity to become a pilot until much later in life, but I’ve been passionate about aviation for a long, long time.
GoFly: What has been your proudest career moment to date?
Chaimson: I started at EAA in 2014 and it hit me when I was walking down to the AirVenture grounds in the summer of 2014 that I now had a chance to participate and have an impact on one of the world’s greatest aviation events. I wasn’t just attending that year—I was very proud of the opportunity to actually play a role.
GoFly: As you think about the people that come together at AirVenture Oshkosh, what makes the aviation community unique and special?
Chaimson: The aviation community is a very strong one. EAA has been around since the early 1950s, and there’s something unique about what EAA does for the aviation culture and for the aviation lifestyle. We’re really about supporting flying’s grassroots – the community and recreational aspects of so many types of flying. We’re about family, youth aviators, and local chapters. There’s a special bond that holds us together.
GoFly: Do you see the definition of pilot changing or expanding? How about the definition of aircraft?
Chaimson: When you look back at Orville and Wilbur Wright, we think of them as pilots. We also think of people who fly 747s and 777s, or Cessna 172s as pilots. People that are putting drones and UAVs into the air are pilots, too – they just have a different perspective and visual point of view. Even though the landscape, the technology and the way we fly have changed, the definition of a pilot has always been someone who is responsible for the safe and legal operation of an aircraft. It is a wonderful responsibility to have.
The definition of an aircraft has probably changed more than the definition of a pilot. There are all sorts of new ways to think about flight, propulsion, noise, vehicle design, emissions and battery technologies.
GoFly: What excites you most about the GoFly Prize challenge?
Chaimson: I’m excited that it’s a step forward towards personal manned flight. GoFly is pushing the industry forward to design a more efficient vehicle that can take off in dense, urban, populated areas. The GoFly Prize has accelerated innovation by providing wonderful incentives—that’s what motivates people to continually improve upon what’s been done previously.
GoFly: What will be the biggest challenge for competitors as we enter Phase II, the building phase?
Chaimson: The biggest challenge will probably be seeing their design through to conclusion. There have been many started and failed attempts to achieve what GoFly Prize is trying to achieve. There are a lot of obstacles that will get in people’s way, and the key will be to stay motivated and take the design across the finish line.
Competitors will need to have proper planning in place, from a safety perspective and from a design perspective, to see this through. Forgive the cliche, but they have to keep their eye on the prize.
GoFly: What advice can you share with competitors?
Chaimson: I would encourage them to build as big of a resource network as possible. At EAA, for example, we have people that have built thousands of airplanes and have a vast amount of experience in airframe design and in power-plant structures. They know how to safely build something that can be flown, whether it’s an ultralight aircraft, a twin aircraft, a high-performance machine, a simple aircraft, or something that uses glider technology. We have a vast amount of resources that I would encourage GoFly Prize competitors to seek out.
Besides building a network, my advice to competitors is to make sure that you understand what’s ahead of you, and don’t take any shortcuts.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, have captured the imagination of hobbyists for decades. Today, new generations of pilots and enthusiasts are reaping the advances in technology that have made it possible for nearly anyone to own a drone.
To keep up with interest and drone demand, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a GoFly Prize partner, is creating new ways to educate and prepare pilots for flight, including the development of a curriculum for high school students interested in pursuing careers in aviation.
In the following Q&A, AOPA’s senior director of UAS programs Kathleen “Kat” Swain discusses the role drones will play in the future of personal flight, and how the definition of the word “pilot” is changing.
The following is an edited transcript of the discussion.
GoFly: Compared to 15 years ago, has the definition of “pilot” changed?
Swain: Yes, by leaps and bounds. I get excited when I hear drone operators, who have no private pilot certificates, refer to themselves as pilots. That puts a smile on my face because that’s exactly what they are. They’re flying a mission, they’re doing a job, they’re finding their passion in the skies, just like professional pilots do when flying manned or unmanned aircrafts.
I’m excited that the technology has expanded and that the regulatory community has allowed that innovation to flourish and not get stifled.
GoFly: AOPA provides a high school curriculum for aspiring pilots. Why is that important?
Swain: Even before high school, I knew I wanted to be a pilot, but trying to find the resources I needed was a bit of a struggle. Thankfully, I was a very headstrong young lady and I didn’t let anybody tell me ‘no.’ Even when people did tell me ‘no,’ I just found a way around it, working really hard to get to where I am today. But a lot of people don’t have the financial resources or the confidence to do it on their own. That’s why AOPA is stepping up to say ‘We see what’s lacking in this space. We know aviation and how to teach it.’
With our high school curriculum, students can get their foot in the door early, so that they don’t have to wait until they get to college or even after college to pursue their passion for flight. I’m seeing a lot of young kids come forward and say, ‘I want this career and I’m passionate about it. I see the different ways that being a pilot can improve the world, and I want to be a part of that.’
GoFly: What is your hope for the future of piloting?
Swain: Our main mission at AOPA is to give you the freedom to fly. I don’t see commercial flight and remote flight as mutually exclusive. We want the freedom to fly to exist in both worlds. There’s plenty of airspace for all of us to fly, enjoy our flight and fulfill our mission. I’m excited to see what the future holds in both arenas.
GoFly: What’s the best part about being a flight instructor?
Swain: As a flight instructor, I have always found joy when I take somebody up in the airplane for the very first time and give them their first flight. It gets very quiet sometimes and I’ll look over at them and they have a big smile plastered on their face. That to me is the ultimate joy— I’ve passed along something that I love very deeply and shared it with them. That’s one of the greatest things that I could ever give back to the aviation community.
GoFly: How will drones play a role in the future of personal flight?
Swain: There’s exciting potential. It’s another approach to passenger transport. You can see the amount of work, effort, time and money that’s being placed into companies that are revolutionizing transportation. Especially here in the United States, getting from point A to point B to point C takes a long time, whether it’s on the highway or via traditional air travel. If we can make something more efficient, safe and cost effective, I’m all for it.