Saturday, August 22, 2009

This represents

This represents the most tremendous distributed travel resource. The answer to Dell and other's travel problems has been staring us in the face since WW2. In Europe and N America airline travel will grow around 50% in 7 years. Already congestion has brought the airliner average speeds down to 300knots on routes of up to 1000miles. The rate of travel demand has outstripped the ability to create new airfields. By 2005 the Dell sales people will be spending very long periods in airport terminals. Airport shopping will be a growth industry.
The American Business Travel Association states that 97% of all business travel is in groups of one to three people, so we propose to build a new six seat aircraft that will fly faster than the airliners, but from the small airfields, operating as high performance taxis and costing only $1 per mile. It will be so quiet that local people won't notice them and it will make very big money for its operators. On a 490 mile route it will enable travel twice as fast as by airline. And you travel when you want.
The Dell people were so enthusiastic that they backed the project with hardware and gave us a great start in life. That was two years ago and now with 20 people working we start to build the first Farnborough F1 plane this year.
If we are right and if 5% of all business travellers in Europe and the US want to use this service- then there could be a demand for 13,000 planes. That's probably the largest production since World War 2 and a $26Bn business!

Too costly

'Too costly - and because they are jets with fast approach speeds and slow acceleration to take off, they need the same long runways and airports as the airliners. And remember with all the congestion the airliners always get the departure slots in preference to the exec jets so there is going to come a time soon when its quicker by airliner'.
A really great idea was borne-an unbelievable opportunity began to emerge like a butterfly from a chrysallis. There must be hundreds of companies like Dell- all concerned about this extraordinary wastage of executive resource. I remember from my own business travelling days the extraordinary love /hate relationship with the airlines - love them for the ability to travel widely- hate them for the delays, poor customer relations and the sheer inefficiency and stress which I suppose must come with any form of centralised travel in a non-centralised World. For 15 years I had specialised as a corporate motivational speaker- and now I started asking questions. Everywhere I went the answer was always the same -there has to be an alternative to airline travel...
'Golf Oscar Foxtrot Lima Golf ?' Shoreham is calling me. 'Golf Lima Golf' 'Golf Lima Golf, track South to the Worthing Pier and take up the hold at 1600ft'.
Still no room at Shoreham, but at least we are getting nearer. The sun is low, the sea is like a mirror and the lights are coming on in Worthing. We take up another oblong circuit with the easterly turn over the pier.
I went back to see the Dell people four months later with the first drawings. There are 7807 active airports in North America, Europe and Scandiavia. The executive jets need at least 5,000 ft runways, which means they can only access less than 2000 airports. 80% of the airfields are too small. Many date from World War 2 and are only used by the private pilots at weekends. The airports are well distributed and in England you are never more than 20 minutes drive from your nearest. In the US there are 4852 airfields - mostly underused.

A New Dream

It's a late sunny Sunday in January 2000, and I am calling Shoreham Control Tower for permission to land . With all the radio traffic, it takes minutes to get the call in. Two thousand feet below and ten miles to the South of me there is mayhem as the daylight fades and the planes head home before it becomes Official Night.
'Golf Lima Golf, welcome to the madhouse- remain outside the zone and I'll call you at 16.10 '
Shoreham Tower is clearly feeling the strain.
I turn round to fly a series of oblong circuits and wait for my call. It's the end of brilliant bright day and I begin to wonder just what we have started back there at Farnborough some 30 miles to the North West of Shoreham. Ever since I was a kid, I loved aeroplanes. I built many in balsa, some with glow engines. Most ended in a pile of debris but some flew really well. It was Ken Norris, designer of Donald Campbell's record breaking Bluebird car and boat who pushed me into flying.
'Look Richard , if you're going to drive that Land Speed record car you need more personal discipline. Flying is what you need . Why don't you learn to fly at our club in Bournemouth and get your licence?'
That was 18 years ago.
Five years on we had a new plant, our own aircraft design called the ARV Super2 and 127 people working on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. Super2s were coming off the line every week and the quality was good -but the backers were not committed enough to stay the course. We hit a minor engine problem, there was no more money and 117 people lost their jobs. Over the Channel the French were after the same market - their Government gave the manufacturers orders for 75 aircraft to get started. We are not so good at these things in Britain and the ARV Super2 is now going back into production -but not in the UK: in the USA.