The Future Is Now: Nicholas Guida of Tamarack Aerospace On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Air Travel
Regulatory aspects of certification will make you feel like a small cog on a big wheel when you’re trying to improve an industry. Keep going.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing, Mr. Guida is an aerospace engineer with over 30 years of applied experience in the development of certified aerospace products.
For many years, Mr. Guida held a Designated Engineering Representative (DER) appointment from the Federal Aviation Administration with the unique skill sets of being authorized to show compliance in four separate areas of engineering (Structures, Loads, Damage Tolerance, and Fatigue). Mr. Guida was delegated by the FAA to create and review engineering for new and aftermarket airplane products including aftermarket passive winglets.
Mr. Guida’s extensive aerospace experience was earned through positions of increasing responsibility with several major OEMs, including Boeing, Pilatus, Aviat, Eclipse, and Quest Aircraft Companies. He founded his own consulting company in 2004, bringing his expertise and DER certifications to work on projects with Spectrum, Raytheon, SNC, API, Falcon, Hawker Beech, and more. Mr. Guida founded Tamarack Aerospace group in 2010, based on the invention of the Active Winglet.
Mr. Guida also enjoys skydiving, sailing, and inventing, and has competed in aerobatics. Mr. Guida holds single pilot type ratings for the CJ525 and Phenom 100 aircraft.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
All I’ve ever wanted to do was airplane-related. I jumped out of airplanes (skydiving) as a teenager and wanted to do anything with air. It was in my blood, like a calling.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Prior to founding Tamarack Aerospace, I worked at big companies like Boeing, Pilatus, Aviat, Eclipse, and Quest Aircraft before I realized how much I wanted to work at a small company, and that was really the start of my whole career as an aviation entrepreneur. I realized that this is how I liked my life.
Can you tell us about the technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
At Tamarack Aerospace, we invented and install Active Winglets on aircraft. Winglets are small aero foils installed vertically to the wing tips and are a positive addition to aircraft as they reduce drag and increase efficiency.
Compared to traditional passive winglets, which have been shown to reduce fuel usage measured in the 3% to 5% range, Tamarack Active Winglets reduce fuel usage by up to 33% percent in some aircraft like the more than one-hundred CitationJets flying now with our Active Winglets. This technology supports sustainable aviation practices by providing a significant and measurable reduction in CO2 emissions as well as reduced fossil fuel use. Tamarack Active Winglets also provide substantial value and added benefits to jet aircraft in many areas. These include increased safety, fewer stops, improved comfort, ride smoothing by instantly and automatically adjusting to turbulence, and a reduced carbon footprint. Active Winglet-equipped aircraft also need shorter runways to take off and land and get to higher altitudes faster, reducing noise pollution around airports while decreasing the danger of runway overruns by the planes.
Active Winglets are a breakthrough themselves, as just one application of the technology that Tamarack has been working on since 2010. We hold more than 30 patents and are always looking for new aviation innovations, as well as continually enhancing our current products.
How do you think this might change the world?
The carbon emissions standard set by The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is intended to require aircraft manufacturers to start producing more efficient airplanes, partly as a response to the UN’s goal to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050. But even with new efficiency standards, international aviation still has a huge gap between its own environmental goals and expected emissions. Achieving zero fuel emissions by 2050 is an enormous task, and Tamarack’s Active Winglets, which save up to 33% of fuel usage for some aircraft, are up to the challenge.
The UN estimates that by 2050, aviation could be responsible for up to 25 percent of the world’s total carbon budget — so the focus is on the aviation industry to make real, significant changes immediately. This is where we can help.
Installing Tamarack Active Winglets on aircraft allows for an upcycle of older tech aircraft. We can retrofit the current fleet instead of building an entirely new fleet. This will contribute to the zero carbon emissions by 2050, and we want to be a part of that, marching toward that goal with other players of the industry.
Can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
It’s a downsize for the airframers who want to build a whole new fleet; however, the safety and sustainability benefits far outweigh any potential drawback.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
I came up with the idea for Active Winglets suddenly while returning from a Steely Dan concert in 2009. Prior to that I’d spent years as an independent consultant (DER) specializing in aerodynamic/loads engineering. I spent time with Joe Clark’s Aviation Partners, as a consultant, working on passive winglets for Hawkers and Gulfstreams. The whole time I was doing this work, I knew that there just had to be a better way. I saw many disadvantages of winglets along with the good parts. This led to some critical thinking, followed by the “big idea.”
It was my work on passive winglets led me to my tipping point. It has always bugged me that passive winglets require aerodynamic compromise — this is something I felt like the world needed to figure out.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Passive Winglets were first invented in the late 1800’s, and since then they have consistently saved between 3–5% of fuel use. Therefore, when some people hear about Active Winglets and the massive fuel savings potential, they have a “too good to be true” mentality that makes it hard to adopt our technology. However, Active Winglets are proven, patented, and the most dramatic fuel savings technology for aircraft on the market today.
Ideally, I would like the opportunity to give more people the Active Winglets experience firsthand. Sometimes seeing is believing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Firstly, the support of my wife, Tammy, has been essential. At Tamarack, we have esprit de corps, and a lot of smart people helped me navigate the business end. I’m grateful for my whole team.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s going to take 5x the money and 5x the time.
- Regulatory aspects of certification will make you feel like a small cog on a big wheel when you’re trying to improve an industry. Keep going.
- Established companies are very reluctant to look at new ideas from the outside.
- Be prepared for cynics.
- It’s hard to find top-notch people who understand entrepreneurial principles.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Never, Never, Never Give Up. — Winston Churchill
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
As Steve Jobs said, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” This is about participation and moving forward — you can use your technological prowess to make games and apps, or you can change the world. Do you want to back the next Candy Crush, or the next-generation technology that will make the world a better place?
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