Newport Beach, California / Woods Cross, Utah
Serial entrepreneur Ayisha Fareed Panwhar co-founded Panhwar Jet with her husband, Chief Engineer Nick Panhwar, with disruptive innovation in mind.
"We are designing and building the world's first all-electric, long-range business aircraft," says Ayisha. "We are making a prototype right now."
The design avoids the prime bottleneck for electric aviation: batteries. "The electrical market is lagging because of the dependency on batteries," says Ayisha. "There are a couple of aircraft manufacturers who have tried to flight-test an aircraft with batteries, but it could not do more than a few minutes . . . but they could not do more than that because the battery is too heavy."
Instead of relying on batteries, Panwhar Jet uses wind energy to recharge while the aircraft is in flight for up to six hours. Processed air rotates the shaft and kickstarts the generators to produce electricity.
Ayisha says the system is about 80 percent efficient and safer than battery-centric aircraft. "We only use 10 percent of the battery for our energy -- the rest is handled by our technology. That's why it is clean -- there are zero emissions -- and sustainable."
The bottom line: Traditional jets cost about $2,500 an hour to fly, versus $25 hourly for Panhwar Jet. "It's a huge cost difference," says Ayisha. "The battery that we require is only 60 pounds, but the other manufacturers that are going into electric are facing a huge, huge problem because of the batteries and how heavy they are and how costly they are. So this is a very basic market advantage for us."
The Panwhars are based in Newport Beach, California, but have established manufacturing in Woods Cross, Utah. "We actually have a hangar where we are designing and prototyping the aircraft," says Ayisha. "We are expecting in the next 12 to 18 months to have an accredited flight." The company is targeting 2025 for FAA certification with plans to launch full-scale production by 2026.
Ayisha says most current and future manufacturing will be handled internally. "Because of the technology, we are very, very careful about what parts we need to get manufactured. Obviously, we are getting help to get the fuselage ready . . . but we have an in-house team to do the CFD analysis and structural analysis."
Challenges: "The biggest challenge is for us to move fast," says Ayisha. That requires "having the right team in place," she adds. "We embrace challenges every day. Every day, there are new problems coming in."
Opportunities: "We don't have competition," says Ayisha. "That's the thing. We are not competing with the fuel counterparts because we are more efficient and more cost-effective and of course cleaner. The cost of travel is substantially lower than what is in the industry right now."
Beyond luxury jets and air taxis, Ayisha says she sees opportunities in cargo due to potential savings: "They want to have the solution as soon as possible."
In the longer term, she forecasts the technology will be used by commercial airlines. "The technology is improving every day and we have great results coming in."
Needs: Employees and capital. Ayisha says she expects the company to hire as many as 50 to 60 employees in 2023. "What we are doing right now is we are privately raising capital," she says. "After this raise, we will be able to demonstrate the propulsion and have the fuselage completed. Then, after that, we expect to even go for an IPO."