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While it’s difficult to dismiss billions, Peryea seems to have set his stake on the eVTOL frontier to chase not only dollars, but also his dreams. “Coming over to Jaunt allows me to come at rotorcraft from a new angle and deal with some of the problems associated with traditional rotorcraft,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong; traditional rotorcraft are a well-developed design, but they are designed to do one mission particularly well: to lift and hover. This limitation of traditional rotorcraft has been known in the industry for years. Most companies are now researching and developing compound (VTOL) aircraft. A compound VTOL aircraft like our Jaunt aircraft retains hover and low-speed capability, but it is designed to takeoff and land vertically, then fly (advance) when in the air. We’re also addressing some annoying characteristics associated with traditional rotorcraft (such as noise).”


From Farm to Flight


This discovery and development are what Peryea has been preparing for his whole life. “From an early age, I’ve always been interested in how things work,” he says. “I used to take things apart all the time; if something in the house broke, my mom always had me work on it. In fact, even today, I take things apart to understand how they work and function. (A favorite hobby is building custom drones in his home workshop.) Curiosity about technology has always been with me, and I also love creativity and innovation.”


Peryea and his eight siblings grew up on an upstate New York dairy farm near Canada. The Peryeas and their cows just happened to reside under a military flight path. “Twice a year, helicopters would fly from Fort Drum to Plattsburgh.” He says, “As a kid, I’d look up in amazement. It always fascinated me as to how these machines operated in the air.” That fascination motivated the insatiably curious student to seek out aviation answers. “I’d go into our high school library, which was limited, and always try to find books on helicopters,” Peryea says. “Fortunately, our public library had more helicopter books. So, I learned about collective and cyclic pitch when I was a teen.”


This research almost became a classic case of curiosity killing the cat. “I thought I was so educated that I attempted to build, while I was in high school, a jet-pulse helicopter. Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of resources to continue the project, or it would have become quite dangerous. Knowing what I know now, it’s a good thing I couldn’t take things too far,” the older and wiser CTO now says.


The ambitious student went to Cornell University (then home to the popular astrophysicist Carl Sagan) with physics, engineering, and helicopters on his mind. However, it was another college subject that grabbed his attention — his future wife, Ximena. “She was from NYC, so she brought charm and culture to my life; it was farm boy meets city girl.” She was three years behind Peryea in college, and that gave the undergraduate physics major another reason to stay on campus and pursue a master’s in aerospace engineering. “I loved studying physics, but I needed a more practical engineering degree for the job market,” he says. For part of his master’s thesis, the grad student built a set of rotor blades.


New Wife & Bell Life


With his 1982 master’s degree in hand, Peryea interviewed on the job market with Bell Helicopter and Boeing. “I loved what Bell was doing in the early ‘80s. They were doing tilt-rotor design and a lot of rotorcraft flight tests,” he says. But Peryea took a job with Boeing in Philadelphia. “It was a short drive to see my sweetheart still in Cornell,” he says. Shortly after Ximena’s graduation, the college romance matured into marriage and the newlyweds decided to move West. Her first choice was California, but Peryea suggested they split the difference and move to Texas. “Fortunately, Bell Helicopter Textron still wanted to hire me,” says Peryea. After the couple arrived in Fort Worth, Peryea began his work as a test engineer in aerodynamics. “We did a lot of wind tunnel testing back then,” he says. “We were also working with NASA on research projects and I eventually worked my way up to chief engineer over Bell’s military programs, which included the V-22.” After half a decade in that position, Peryea moved on to eventually become executive director of Bell’s X-Files-mysterious Xworx program, where Bell developed its most advanced, secret technologies. “That was a great time in my career because I was directing a lot of research on new materials and rotorcraft configurations,” he fondly recalls.


From there, in 2012 the Peryeas moved to Quebec, Canada, where Peryea became vice president of engineering for Bell’s Mirabel facility. “The Canadian talent and hospitality made this assignment very enjoyable.” recalls Peryea. They returned to Fort Worth a few years later for Peryea to take over as chief engineer for the Bell 525 program. He says, “We really put that aircraft on a path to certification and resolved some remaining technical issues.”


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