Steinhobel Design, based in Johannesburg is involved in a project that is set to make aviation history. Chris Buchanan spoke to Brian Steinhobel.
There have been some definitive moments in the history of flight. Of course Orville and Wilbur Wright succeeded where Leonardo da Vinci might have and Icarus failed and actually got their contraption to fly. Since then we’ve seen jet engines, supersonic passenger flight, the possibility of passenger space flight, helicopters and vertical take-off fighter jets. The next trick surely is to combine the last two for convenient corporate pick-up and then jet off to a foreign land. The problem is, no urban helipad, or a landing pad on a private yacht wants 3000 pounds of hot jet thrust unleashed to get the craft airborne.
This is about to change and industrial designer Brian Steinhobel is working on a project that will soon see vertical take-off corporate jets a reality. Dr Reza Mia, with Pegasus Universal Aerospace, whose business extends into medicine, aviation and philanthropy brought Brian Steinhobel Design and aeronautics engineer Matthew Buttle of Epsilon Engineering Services together to realise the next step in corporate flight.
Brian calls it hybrid technology between drone-like characteristics and jet flight. The oversized leading edges on the wings have advantages and disadvantages, enabling increased gliding capability and slow speed precision flight onto a helipad using drone technology built into the wings. This makes it a little slower than your typical corporate jet but with significant advantages. Once you’re free of a built up area the jet engines take over and intake and outlet louvres in the wings are shut to create the aerodynamic surfaces of a typical wing, so you’re in a drone while landing and taking off from any location and a corporate jet while heading intercontinental.
“This is a revolution. This is like, in the history of flight, this will be a significant point”, says Brian and the technology is patented and aeronautically verified, so it will fly, they just need to make one. Brian says this is a three year process of finding interested parties who will contribute to raising in the region of $350m capital to see this dream become a reality. In terms of certification Brian says it’s likely that the capital will be raised in Europe and the manufacture in the US but for the moment it’s about stirring the pot of interest and getting the finance in place while fine tuning the technical aspects of the aircraft.
So, who is Steinhobel Design and how does a local industrial designer get to work on such a project? Brian’s business extends into three elements of industrial design and this is one guy who believes that design unlocks so many aspects of our daily lives yet the appreciation of good design is often overlooked.
Steinhobel Design consults as industrial consultants to many brands that manufacture day-today products such as hairdryers, lawnmowers and sanitary ware to name a few products to which you may be familiar.
They also develop products with inventors and innovators where there’s a need to raise capital – the business of design and unlocking the high return on investment (ROI) that deign offers. This means engaging with high net worth individuals and influential business entrepreneurs
The third element is the ART Steinhobel brand. Art is his middle name and incorporates sculpture and art into industrial design across the spectrum – office furniture, and exclusive design items. One such piece can be found in the wine gallery in Ellerman House called the cork screw. It’s a 1700 bottle wine rack made from carbon fibre, limited to 20 pieces and comes at cost of $2m as a beautiful piece of objet d’art. “Paul Harris asked me to design a wine rack like no other”, says Brian and I think by looking at it, the brief was fulfilled. The aesthetic says Brian is one of ambulating through a vine and being totally enveloped by it.
For the last 25 years Steinhobel Design has been a pioneer in products that we take for granted, as well as innovative and exceptional one off design projects in partnership with HNWIs and business leaders through its offices in South Africa, the UK and Europe.
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