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Reach for the Skies.

Ed & Vern Eclipse Front4
Iacobucci and Rayburn (right) plan to fly the world

Or how a pair of multi-millionaire tech heads, some lateral P2P thinking and a truck load of technology may well revolutionize the air transportation industry.

If jovial entrepreneur Ed Iacobucci has his way, within a few years the face of aviation around the world could be changed for ever. Gone will be the heartache and horrors of current airport travel, the cattle truck mentality and terrorist playing field, replaced by a sophisticated on-demand, fly anywhere air service more like a limousine experience than an airline. His new venture, Dayjet, is a bold step into the unknown and one which may well point to the direction of future transportation in general.

The driver behind this 21st century revolution is, as might be expected, the awesome power of information technology, but in this case harnessed in totally innovative ways to transform the way we buy, use and experience air travel. The story starts at an annual Agenda conference in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2001. Self confessed technology junkie Iacobucci was hanging time after having departed Citrix Corporation, the ultra successful networking company he founded in 1989, a retirement that didn’t sit easily on the affable Georgia Tech engineer’s head.

“My retirement lasted precisely three months,” he told The Ferret in an exclusive interview on the eve of the airline’s official launch, “Then I realized that I wanted to do something else with my time.”

The main speaker at Agenda was ex-Microsoft executive Vern Rayburn, talking about his new found passion for small jet aircraft – usually called VLJs or Very Light Jets. He had just set up a new company called Eclipse Aviation to manufacture these small commuter planes and fill what he felt was a gap in the aviation market. When Iacobucci heard Rayburn describe his vision of the future it was like a light bulb going off.

“I wasn’t too excited about his idea that professionals would buy and fly their own jets,” Iacobucci explains, “But his concept of creating the Model T of aircraft, cheaply and through mass production technologies really struck a chord. It was a bold and interesting vision.”

The reason was simple. The year before Ed and his wife Nancy had set up their own air limousine charter company, small but very up market, hiring out Lear jet quality aircraft to companies and net high worth customers to provide the kind of transport they needed in a busy working schedule. But Iacobucci felt that there was something missing. Wingedfoot Services had a stellar reputation, a diamond crusted clientele and a solid position in the market, but it worried him that these sorts of services were only supplied to a very small and elite customer base.

“The idea of moulding travel around your schedules instead of the other way around is extremely addictive and almost life changing. But it just didn’t seem right that it should only be available for a privileged few.”

He’d been toying with the idea of extending the market, but was getting nowhere fast. They just couldn’t work out a way to make the charter price attractive enough and still make money using their fleet of traditional multi-million dollar aircraft. Which is where Eclipse came in.

The two entrepreneurs flew back to New Mexico after Agenda finished and started talking about working together on a true ‘on demand’ air service. The big constraint that Iacobucci had identified early on was that of operational logistics. It wasn’t simply a matter of building cheaper planes and cutting costs. Without state of the art systems in place for things like maintenance and scheduling, no service like this could survive or, more importantly, scale.

“The problem isn’t about the aircraft, it’s about the underlying business model,” says Iacobucci, “The optimization of systems, the scheduling, operations and every other aspect of providing a large scale air service at low cost.”

A few months later in January 2002 he launched Jetson Systems, having put together a crack team of multi-disciplinary experts who, instead of concentrating on conventional aviation issues, were tasked with building an entirely new paradigm, one in which the only carry over from the traditional airline model would be safety and security issues. “We kept ourselves aligned with Rule 135 [federal regulations on non-scheduled airline services] and literally threw everything else out of the window to start afresh.”

The company’s launch announcement on April 25th 2005, with a new name, logo and tagline (DayJet Corporation: ‘It’s about time’) is the culmination of this three year project to change the way we fly. It is a bold gamble, and one which relies on a massive amount of technology, knowledge management and sheer number crunching dexterity. To understand it properly, one needs to dig beneath the press releases and look at the super-scaffolding which is bringing it all together. The hardware, software and systems which will power the first per seat, on-demand air transport service in the world.

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2 Comments

  • Wow Red, this is exciting, and much more than I expect from a blog. Not to denigrate the Journal, but is this running elsewhere? It seems to deserve more mainstream coverage.

    Sounds like flying may be fun again. Soon. Coincidentally I just moved to New Mexico…

  • Heh, thanks Andi. No I haven’t placed it anywhere else yet, and I agree that I think it could be very interesting in the long run and so deserves more attention. Let’s see, maybe some cute Ferrety reader will pick it up….

    I’ll be fascinated to see how the project goes, and hope to have another chat with Ed when he next comes over to Europe. :)

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