flight school07  

Flying: Beyond A to B
Aspen Institute • June 20-22 • Aspen, Colorado

Planned Sessions
  • The registered traveler program: With Steve Brill, CEO/founder of Verified ID Pass. The Fly Clear program is the antidote to the TSA's version of customer experience. How is it working? What has the company learned so far?
  • Air taxi/charter models that work: What are current successful operators such as Netjets, XOJET, SATSair and Linear Air doing to succeed? How does the financing work?
  • Air taxi models that should work: How will the start-ups fare? Are very light jets a key to success, or just one variant in a broader range of models?
  • The customer experience: What models should we follow? How can we make solo flight a community experience? What can we learn from icons such as Disney and Marriott?
  • Who will buy air taxi services, light jets and space tours? What are the demographics, psychographics and other characteristics of this new customer base?
  • The insurance angle: Existing and potential insurers explain how they assess the risks and opportunities 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, 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?
  • Can we get this business financed? 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 financing; space tourism attracts mostly angel investors and enthusiasts with big pockets. How can start-ups attract institutional capital on the scale necessary?
  • Are we having fun yet? Space tourism and light sport aircraft. 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? Kirk Hawkins of Icon Aircraft and his competitors are betting that they can address the current market of extreme sports enthusiasts, as opposed to trained pilots who might condescend to fly a "toy" plane. (Does this remind you of the PC?)
  • The infrastructure: What will we need in terms of secondary airports and space ports? Who will finance them? (State governments, are you listening?) Can we create an alternative to the current Air-Traffic Control system better tailored to the needs of smaller airports and lighter aircraft?
  • 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 of Lawrence Livermore National Lab, who looks out in decades instead of months or years. While his ideas for terra-forming Mars may sound like science fiction, they are science. The only question is: why not on Earth, too? The answer is that we're stuck with a legacy system and too many political and economic conflicts to act.