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5 Minutes with Wisk Aero, discussing the autonomous eVTOL

Q. We are here with Jay Pankowski of Wisk Aero, thank you for this interview. Jay, how long have you been on the program? A. I've been with almost eight years now in November, it'll be eight years. Q. And since the Boeing purchase, you're still in the same location? A. Yes, we're based in California, our headquarters in Mountain View, south of San Francisco, so, we aren't even 60 miles south. I run our flight test operations in Hollister California. Jay PankowskiQ. We are standing under one of the motor/propeller power modules as we do this interview, and I am noticing external cooling fins on the motor as if is air-cooled. A. The motors you see here are a mockup for this show, and yes, they will be air-cooled motors. Q. So you're going with the KISS principle here. A. Yes, absolutely. It's worked well for us over the years, all independently controlled, each motor has its own controller. Q. I had the pleasure of attending the Vertical Flight Symposium and one of the hot topics was the user experience and how it could make or break an entry in this segment with a poor user experience. This arena encompasses seating comfort, means of entry and egress, and accessibility for those with mobility issues. In our discussion before this interview one of the things we touched on was accessibility. Would be fair to say your team has thought this through? A. When we say we want to do safe everyday flight for everybody, we mean everybody. When the team designed the aircraft here, we've taken the technology that we've learned over the last 12 years of flying, and we put it into the aircraft that we have here. On the technology side, from what you're asking, accessibility for all the teams worked on an interior that does work for everybody. We have done all sorts of trade studies of how you how do you help out people that are handicapped or in a wheelchair, or things like that, so there are adjustments you can make in the cabin, for instance, take a seat out to carry them with you. There are all sorts of options we're working with, to be able to figure out how to do that. Q. The display mockup has a set of stairs to enter the Wisk, but I imagine when the production version they will have some sort of retractable step arrangement correct? A. Yes, we're still looking at what ground support equipment we're going to want to use at a Vertiport. Like I said, it's just a mockup here and isn't really for the masses at the show. We're working out some of those details. Q. The Team, what is your Corporate Culture like at Wisk? A. So we are a Silicon Valley startup. That's part of really what drove me to it. I originally found this job on Craigslist, hunting Craigslist, one night job they offered free chocolate! That was the startup mentality that we had back then, and gladly took the job eight years ago, and it's been fantastic since. now, as we've grown. I don't know. I mean, we probably still get free chocolate. I actually stock the shelves, so the free chocolate is still there. (laughter) Now it's great, though the growth has been fantastic. We still have people that have been around with me from the beginning, or at least eight years ago and even longer, and when volumes come on board, Boeing wants us to stay small. We have very good interactions with the Boeing execs, and we just had them out for a visit recently, and they want us to keep that small mentality that got us through the first five generations of aircraft. We're a company that's proven we can design aircraft and build up from the ground up. We've been vertically integrated from the beginning. Now we're just building bigger ones, growth has been great for us. We're still trying to be that startup mentality. Q. In terms of manufacturing the Wisk, would it occur in the California area, or would Boeing take it in-house with their robust manufacturing capabilities? A. We are working on things, it's part of the relationship with Boeing we are not saying anything yet in terms of manufacturing. I don't know the exact date of when we're going to let people know that piece. Q. In terms of the entire eVTOL power train, are you vertically integrated or are you relying on some of the suppliers in this space? A. We have been vertically integrated from the beginning. You asked about the aircraft flying today, most of the aircraft was built in-house. As we move into generation six and the following, we are looking at doing some things with other people to help with that. We have not announced which components we're going to be outsourcing places during the house. But we are starting to work in the industry because it's fantastic. We've been coming to the shows now, it's good to see that there's other people in this space besides us. And when we started it was, it was only two of us give or take, and now there's a whole industry of us trying to figure out this whole problem.Jay Pankowski in the Wisk eVTOL Q. You took a bold step by going with the goal of going autonomous from day one with Wisk. I can't imagine making that bold decision, and essentially saying we are going for it. What technologies were out there at that time that made you think that it was doable? A. A bit of history, when our generation three flew, it was the first all-electric aircraft to vertically takeoff and land, transition to wing-born flight, and it was fly by wire. With a pilot on board, we did that transition flight in August 2017, and we believe we're the first ones to ever do it. Later that year, we flew an unmanned larger version, generation four. So, we took the pilot out of play at the end of 2017. And we haven't put a pilot back in there since. Q. Wow, it's pretty amazing, Thank you, Sir.
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