"With Hanwha's financial backing, we've really been able to focus on engineering and technical development. We believe that that's going to allow us to position Butterfly as the most capable eVTOL aircraft with the most efficient path to FAA certification." (Photo: Overair)
Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer Overair recently announced the appointment of a new CFO, Tom Whayne. He previously served as chief strategy officer of Maxar Technologies and as CFO of OneWeb. Whayne also has more than 20 years of experience in investment banking. "His finance and operating background in orbital platform companies positions him perfectly to help Overair prepare for rapid scaling,” remarked Ben Tigner, CEO and co-founder of Overair.
Overair's headquarters are located in Santa Ana, California, and they have a flight test facility complex in Victorville.
Korean conglomerate Hanwha Systems, a strategic partner of Overair, invested $145 million in funding for eVTOL development last June.
Tom Whayne discussed the company’s goals and current efforts in a recent interview with Avionics International. Check out our question-and-answer session with Overair’s new CFO below.
"We're focused, first and foremost, on developing a superior aircraft with the most payload capacity: our Butterfly." (Photo: Overair)
Avionics: What brought you into the new role with the company?
Tom Whayne: I joined Overair for two principal reasons. It's an opportunity to be part of an effort that is going to launch a whole new mode of transportation. The industry in general, and Overair in particular, is revolutionizing transportation. We're creating sustainable solutions for advanced air mobility. To be part of that opportunity really excited me.
The second big thing is the team. The team at Overair is definitely stellar. Our co-founder and CEO Ben Tigner, and our co-founder and Chief Technology Advisor, Abe Karem, have been partners for a long time. They really pulled together an amazing team at Overair, including the recent appointment of Dr. Valerie Manning, a former senior executive at Airbus, as our Chief Commercial Officer. That team is incredibly strong.
The leadership team's track record in innovation, which is well known in the industry, really drew me in—particularly as the whole team approaches the debut of our first aircraft by the end of this year.
What do you hope to achieve in the short- and medium-term as CFO, and what do you see as your priorities moving forward?
Whayne: I have three main priorities. The first thing is scaling the company for commercialization. Second, exploring partnerships with various players on both the commercial side as well as the manufacturing side, which will be important to us going forward. Finally, working with the entire Overair management team to build the foundation to execute upon and prepare for future financings which the company will need to undertake.
How would you describe the current state of the eVTOL industry? How do you see it evolving over the next five or ten years?
Clearly, the eVTOL market provides an opportunity for multiple companies, in our view, to have very successful businesses—given the significant market potential. There are industry observers like Morgan Stanley that expect this eVTOL industry to represent an addressable market in excess of a trillion dollars (or greater than that) by 2040. That's going to create enormous opportunity for multiple players.
There's a lot of support from governments. There's rising investment from other sectors focused on eVTOLs. One of the great things about this industry is increased collaboration amongst a number of industry partners on multiple dimensions.
We think there's going to be a sharp increase in consumer demand, as these vehicles are introduced, [because of] increased traffic congestion, pollution, noise, and all the other pain points in current modes of transportation.
As emerging companies, we are subject to market turbulence and financing issues that have been created by that market turbulence. I don't see that going away. One of the things that will be very important for eVTOL companies in general, and Overair in particular, is to be very, very careful about cash management.
What do you see as Overair's greatest obstacles or opportunities related to finance?
We're actually in a great position right now. We have the benefit of being an independent company that's privately owned. We're focused, first and foremost, on developing a superior aircraft with the most payload capacity: our Butterfly. Being private allows us to focus on the continued development of our aircraft without the distractions of being a public company.
We have a very important strategic partner in Hanwha. They've made a very important strategic investment in Overair over the last few years, which really recognizes the progress of our technical team as well as the growth prospects that the company has. With Hanwha's financial backing, we've really been able to focus on engineering and technical development. We believe that that's going to allow us to position Butterfly as the most capable eVTOL aircraft with the most efficient path to FAA certification.
Could you speak to the company's efforts to ensure safety and reliability for the aircraft and how those considerations might factor into the bigger picture of the financial strategy?
Butterfly, by design, will be an extremely safe vehicle given the fundamentals of our designs and the redundancy of the Butterfly aircraft's systems. eVTOLs in general, and Butterfly in particular, have the advantage of having very few moving parts. There's no liquid hydraulics and no single point of failure. They have simplified vehicle operations for pilots, which really speaks to the focus on safety. Our commercial strategy is to build the best aircraft on the most efficient path and certification, and to be a fast follower to market. Our financing today has really positioned us really well to execute on that strategy.
Overair was spun out of Karem Aircraft. When we were spun out, we were brought out with with Hanwha as a strategic partner. Part of that agreement with Hanwha was to prioritize technical development and engineering in our early years. In our view and Hanwha's view, that is how you build a superior aircraft to be a long-term economic winner.