NOMPU SIZIBA: The Pegasus Vertical Business Jet, which is being developed in South Africa, is moving into its next phase of development. This development seeks to make an aircraft that combines and enhances the characteristics of a helicopter with the luxury range and speed of a business jet. The concept has been patented in South Africa, Europe and the United States. As further work continues to develop the aircraft, Pegasus Universal Aerospace is looking to raise funds with an offer to investors of a profit-sharing arrangement.
Well, to tell us about the development and the kind of advantages it will bring to business travel and where to next, I’m joined on the line by Dr Reza Mia. He’s the founder and CEO at Pegasus Universal Aerospace. Thanks very much, Dr Mia, for joining us. When was the Pegasus Vertical Business Jet conceptualised, and when did the project-development work actually begin?
Dr REZA MIA: I had the idea in 2012, and started working on it with some engineers pretty much in that year, just to do conceptual design studies. Slowly we’ve progressed with even working on the design and building a scale model.
NOMPU SIZIBA: So what’s so special about this aircraft, and what are some of the key specifications about it?
Dr REZA MIA: The real benefit of this is that it is the only plane that can land anywhere that a helicopter would, including on places where a helicopter couldn’t land – such as tight built-up areas. But then it can fly at four times the range and four times the speed of a helicopter that could take the same amount of passengers.
NOMPU SIZIBA: In terms of size, how big would it be?
Dr REZA MIA: We designed it to be able to fit onto a helipad, so 15 metres X 15 metres.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Ultimately you’re looking to direct this flight service to the business community. What would be the selling points that you would advocate for business travel?
Dr REZA MIA: We would look at about $18 million, because then it’s still cheaper than a comparable helicopter which would cost about $22 million.
NOMPU SIZIBA: You’ve moved to the next phase of development in the aircraft. What is happening now? I see that you’re also looking to raise capital for this next phase. Just expand on both the development and the funding.
Dr REZA MIA: So what you’re doing now is following the success of our one-eighth scale model. We are now flying two quarter-scale models. We’re building them to send them to the UK to fly with our partner companies, PUA and Callen-LenzCallen-Lenz. What we’ll do with those is refine the control systems and automation. Because we’ve been given some support from the UK government, including some financial incentives, we are going to fly those models in the UK. But we’re also building a full-scale hover demonstrator locally in Johannesburg.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Just in terms of access to investors, you are looking to raise funds. If there are any potential investors listening, what is it that you would be offering them in terms of quid pro quo, and also where can they get information about this?
Dr REZA MIA: The best place to get more information is on our website, at www.pegasusua.com, or on our Instagram, which is Pegasus_ua. And we’re selling the shares in the public-development company, which is Pegasus UA Limited. It’s a minimum of four shares for R10 000, with a maximum of whatever you want. It’s basically similar to a seven-year note, where they earn interest that accrues at the seventh year at a fixed rate.
NOMPU SIZIBA: So, assuming all goes well in getting the funding and getting the development done, what are the timelines, and when do you expect the Vertical Business Jet to be flying clients? And are you also yet in a position to give a sense of how much it would cost for corporates to use this service?
Dr REZA MIA: With adequate funding we should be able to fly a manned version within two years. And, following the certification timeline, it should take us about five to six years before we are able to deliver to customers. It will cost about half the cost that it would take to fly a traditional business jet, as it burns a fraction of the fuel because it’s so light and uses a lot of new hybrid technology.
NOMPU SIZIBA: In terms of the capacity that you have behind this project, just tell us about the skills that are there. Obviously you are the founder of this and you conceptualised it – just tell us about who’s behind this.
Dr REZA MIA: We have our own in-house engineers who have been working with local engineering firms, and our new partner company, which is the one I spoke about, which is Callen-Lenz in the UK. Their expertise is in the control systems and automation side of it, which makes the plane idiot-proof. But also it opens up a lot of avenues for us to be able to do missions that we couldn’t previously have done, because it’s now a plane that anyone with like a private pilot licence would be able to fly, because it takes all the manual labour out of maintaining a stable hover in the airplane.
NOMPU SIZIBA: And then the issue of safety – obviously that’s a big deal.
Dr REZA MIA: That’s where the control system comes in. If the pilot was to let go of the controls, it wouldn’t fall out of the sky. It would just hover. Really, some of the challenges and the attempts in the sixties and seventies to build this, our airplane, were that the pilot would have to manually control the ducts and louvres and fans, whereas in ours the pilot simply has to choose the speed that he wishes to fly. They don’t need to worry about whether they are on the wings, on the fans; the plane does all of that work for them.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Of course, you’re still in the early stages. You’re developing this project, but you must have some ambitions. You’re already working with partners overseas. Where do you see this going? How big would you like it to go?
Dr REZA MIA: We’d obviously like this to be global. We’d like to supply planes to every corner of the globe. And we would manufacture those based on what those requirements would be for each country that we were sending them to.
NOMPU SIZIBA: And just in terms of building and manufacturing – it’s being developed here in South Africa – what potential would there be here in South Africa? What sort of inputs could you get from South Africa once you start building?
Dr REZA MIA: I think what we can get is a very small share of the actual market globally. The main market is the USA, and we’ve been getting promising support from, like I said, the UK government. We’ve had engagements with the FAA (Federal Aircraft Administration). So it’s more likely that we’ll end up basing the operation there if in time our government hasn’t really been involved or interested.
NOMPU SIZIBA: That was Dr Reza Mia. He’s the founder and CEO at Pegasus Universal Aerospace.