flight school07  

Flying: Beyond A to B
Aspen Institute • June 20-22 • Aspen, Colorado
The event will begin Wednesday, June 20, with registration at 5 pm, accompanied by cocktails, conversation and buffet food starting at 6 pm. We may have a guest speaker that evening; stand by for details.

The formal sessions start Thursday morning, June 21, and continue through noon on Friday, June 22 (including a dinner Thursday night). Companions and spouses will be invited to join us Thursday night and for lunch Friday.

Finally, we are organizing a limited-space Zero-G charter flight (cost $3500 per person) for Friday afternoon for those attendees and spouses/companions who wish to experience the excitement for themselves. You can find out more about Zero-G in general here.

Any questions? E-mail me at edyson@boxbe.com.

Wednesday, June 20
  Airport pick-up, check-in, etc.
5:00 pm Registration at Aspen Meadows (workshop hotel)
6:00 pm Welcome reception and buffet dinner at Aspen Meadows
Thursday, June 21
8:30 am Walter Isaacson, Aspen Institute: Welcome
Esther Dyson: Why are we here?
We're gathering to define a new marketplace. In evolutionary terms, the result will be not the dominance of a single successful model, but speciation: market segmentation, a variety of customers, suppliers, providers, funders. There is already over $1.5 billion invested in new air transportation ventures and an estimated $1 billion in new commercial space ventures... but much more will be needed. We will explore current conditions and latent markets. What needs to happen -- in technology, regulation, finance, customer perceptions?
8:45 am The equipment - beyond A to B
Aircraft/spacecraft offer more than just capacity and speed. The manufacturers on this panel all have models -- of their target customers (business or leisure, time vs. money), their manufacturing curves (initial cost vs. economies of scale), their pricing (price to purchase vs. cost to own) and utilization patterns. What new markets are opening up? What are their prospects? With the change in regulations, consumers now have the opportunity to buy and fly light sport aircraft with a minimum of fuss and training ... but where will those aircraft come from? Is the market real? Vern Raburn of Eclipse is going after both cost-conscious business travelers via the air-taxi operators as well after slightly more upscale individual owners, whereas Kirk Hawkins of Icon Aircraft is betting that he can address a different market of flying enthusiasts given the 2005 change in regulations that reduces training requirements for light sport aircraft. And Jeff Greason of XCOR Aerospace is addressing the very high end of the enthusiast market.

Jeff Greason, XCOR Aerospace
Kirk Hawkins, Icon Aircraft
Vern Raburn, Eclipse Aviation
Counterpoint: Alex Tai, Virgin Galactic
10:00 am Break
10:30 am Private aviation models that are working
What are current successful operators such as XOJet and SATSair doing to succeed? All of them use current aircraft and scheduling systems to provide high frequency on demand. How much difference will new optimization tools make? How does the financing work? How much effort do they devote to customer service? How do they train staff and pilots? Is it the model or the (experience) delivery that is key? How do the aircraft stand up under continuous use? What motivates the passenger? And what motivates the passenger's boss (whether that "boss" is a sales manager, an investor or the passenger herself)? Some operators own their own aircraft; others operate aircraft owned or financed by private investors? What about the "aggregators" who plan to aggregate demand and supply across a broad base of owners, operators and passengers? How can they ensure quality?

Steve Fisher, Slipstream Group
Steve Hanvey, SATSair
Richard Kane, Coastal Technologies Group Inc.
Paul Touw, XOJET
11:30 am Air taxi models that should work
The current air-taxi operators are extensions of the charter model. The new players sit further along a continuum that extends to newer aircraft, per-seat sales and pricing, more tightly automated/optimized scheduling and the like. Just as Eclipse is spending heavily now to enjoy economies of scale later, so are these start-ups basing their businesses on high traffic density/frequency and low (or lower!) operating costs. How will these start-ups fare? Are very light jets a key to success, or just one variant in a broader range of models? What customer set are these operators counting on? How are they financing their aircraft?

Bill Herp, Linear Air
Ed Iacobucci, DayJet
Michael Stuart, Pogo
12:30 pm Lunch: Three five-minute start-up presentations / announcements: Airship Ventures and more...
2:30 pm Money money money! The insurance angle
How do insurers assess the risks in air and space. Many air and space start-ups haven't yet faced the need for insurance -- which is a prerequisite for financing and commercial operations. Unfortunately, especially in space, they have no "history" that could help the insurers set pricing. So right now, most of the market is guesswork, but it's clear the start-ups need the insurers more than the insurers need them. How can a start-up navigate these complexities? How do insurers set rates? How should we handle disaster when -- inevitably -- it strikes? Should the industry band together in some kind of consortium? Does regulation help or hurt?

Kelly Alton, United Risk
2:45 pm Money money money! Can we get this business off the ground?
Institutional investors are leery of investing in general aviation and commercial space. Many remember Federal Express -- where the third-round investors made out like bandits, owning two-thirds of the company for less than $10 million. Currently, general aviation is still a market for collateralized lease financing or private owner/investors; space tourism attracts mostly angel investors and enthusiasts with deep pockets. The opportunities range from risky start-up capital for new enterprises, to large fleet financings that are traditionally less risky -- unless they involve new air or space craft with no operating history. How can start-ups attract institutional capital on the scale necessary? And how can they encourage the financing (and development) of complementary infrastructure -- everything from roads and space ports to rent-a-car offices, hotels and training facilities?

Brian Birk, Sun Mountain Capital
Kevin Leclaire, ISDR Consulting
Andrew Nelson, Morgan Stanley
3.45 pm Break
4:15 pm The regulatory environment
What has changed and needs to change in the regulatory infrastructure -- everything from certification requirements to liability standards? Two association executives and one farsighted regulator assess the Washington scene and how it affects the air and space markets. How is the notion of commercial versus private aviation changing? Can on-demand aviation be tapped to meet a need for airline service to smaller communities? Can the private sector jump-start the next generation air-traffic control system by focusing on the potential of smaller airports and lighter jets? (Think of how the cell phone companies simply replaced the landline operators without falling under the same regulatory burdens.) What does this mean for federal oversight of the aviation sector?

Brett Alexander, Personal Spaceflight Federation
Earl Lawrence, Experimental Aircraft Association
Andy Steinberg, Department of Transportation
5:00 pm The infrastructure
What will we need in terms of secondary airports and space ports? Who will finance them? (State governments, are you listening?) What are the realities of the change from big air and space to start-up air and space? There's a huge opportunity for everything from new roads to new gift shops, from hot dog stands to tony hotels.

Bruce Holmes, DayJet
Stu Witt, Mojave Air and Space Port
6:00 pm Break
6:30 pm vans to Sardy Field -- food and drink powered by Eclipse Aviation (vans will go back and forth as needed until close)
Friday, June 22
9:00 am Register me, please!
The Registered Traveler/Fly Clear program lets pre-cleared passenger through a separate, faster security lane. It's the antidote to the TSA's version of customer experience. But why can't it be like this for everyone? And, closer to reality, how is it working? What has Verified ID Pass learned so far? How could that apply to smaller airports and private services, where it's easier to know your customer? How does Clear's transparency mesh with... well, we don't want to lose our travel privileges so we'll leave this question unasked!

Steve Brill, CLEAR | Verified Identity Pass
9:30 am The customer experience
In general, the new air and space operators sell to customers who value their time more than their money: They want to use their time productively, or they want to spend it having a really good time, not waiting to have a good time or trying to have a good time. What are the implications for our participants? What can we learn from icons such as Marriott? Who will buy air taxi services, light jets and space tours? What are the demographics, psychographics and other characteristics of this growing customer base? How can we make space flight in particular a community experience? How can we take the heightened interest in space flight and use it to broaden the market, providing programs to those who can't afford the (initial) high cost? Should we/can we involve families of solo participants? Alex Tai of Virgin Galactic envisions resorts with day spas for accompanying families; Jane Reifert of Incredible Adventures says her clients mostly travel alone or perhaps with a sporting buddy.

Eric Anderson, Space Adventures
Peter Diamandis, Zero-G and the X Prize Foundation
Jane Reifert, Incredible Adventures
Dirk Schavemaker, Marriott Vacation Club International
Alex Tai, Virgin Galactic
11:00 am Break
11:30 am Terra-forming Mars
Why do we want to go into space? In the short term, space tourism is a big driver. But not for visionary Lowell Wood, retired after four decades at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a long-time Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He looks out decades instead of months or years. While his ideas for terra-forming Mars may sound like science fiction, they are science. As we have already inadvertently proved on Earth, it’s entirely possible to change atmospheric conditions in a matter of decades. The only question is: why not do so purposefully -- on Earth as well as Mars? The answer is that we're stuck with a legacy system and too many political and economic conflicts to act.

Lowell Wood, rocket scientist
12:00 pm Lunch at Aspen Meadows
2:00 pm Meet in Meadows lobby for Zero-G training and flight, other demos