Italy has long been known for design and engineering, and has a rich heritage for innovation and fantasy. And, in that spirit, the Italian-born OMA SUD aviation company has continued this tradition through its specialization in designing and producing small private aircraft.
On Episode 10 of the Agents of Innovation podcast, we were joined by Davide Proietti, the International Sales Representative for OMA SUD. Davide is based in Miami, where he is currently in his second year of law school at Florida International University. He is also a graduate of the University of Miami and he is helping his father expand his business in the United States, doing so from South Florida.
The Skycar is one of the top, innovative products for OMA SUD. It is, as the name suggests, designed like a car. It has 5-passenger seating – for the pilot and four additional passengers, plus a cargo area in the back like the trunk of a car. These aircraft are designed from the perspective of the owner/operator, for flexible use – such as business trips or weekend island-hopping.
Davide is expanding sales in the United States, the largest market for these kinds of planes. However, markets are opening up all over the world for small private aircraft.
On Episode 10 of the Agents of Innovation podcast, he walked us through the many years it takes to bring a small private aircraft like the Skycar to market – between designing, engineering, testing, and ultimately getting approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
While OMA SUD still has Italy as its international headquarters, they are starting to move some of their operations to Florida. Mostly, for the business climate and secondly for the warm and sunny weather that is more conducive for the clientele who buy these kind of aircraft.
Davide told us that having access to the U.S. market, as well as being in Miami, gives them quick access to expanding markets in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Plus, being in the United States allows them to be “within a country that has a respected tradition for small businesses, for entrepreneurs, that is well developed, has a well-respected rule of law … and at the same time, you have a foot already into another huge potential market for your product. Really, it was a no brainer to select Florida.”
Contrast that with Italy, where he says there are “artificial obstacles to do business” or Europe generally where he says there is “a lot of guesswork, a lot of mystery” to do business and comply with regulations. In the United States, and particularly, in Florida, government authorities are “more straightforward with you,” said Proietti. “People here realize you’re on a schedule, that time is money.”
Building airplanes is of course a long and complicated process. Davide compared it to bringing a new drug to market in terms of the amount of testing and compliance that must go on to meet high quality safety standards.
While Davide is based in Miami, OMA SUD is looking to build a completion center for its aircraft at a site in Punta Gorda, on Florida’s southwest coast. This would be where they would bring the plane after it is assembled in Italy. At the completion center, they would do the final painting and preparing it to go to the customer. These planes are small enough that they can be shipped by sea – which is much less costly than flying it from place to place and paying for a pilot’s expenses to get it there.
Because of their unique design and innovation and the kind of lightweight aerodynamics that aircraft require, OMA SUD has also been asked to build other products – including high-performance Italian racecars. Several of OMA SUD’s engineers are working for the Red Bull Formula 1 team and they are in talks with the Ferrari Formula 1 race team as well. In addition, the carbon fiber material they use on the interior of their planes have also been requested by luggage pieces, kitchen sets, among other products.
“I found it funny that what started as a an airplane company and what is an airplane company mainly, is contacted for these sometimes completely unrelated requests for quotations, which nonetheless, they fit within our production capability,” said Proietti. Due to the multiple capabilities and various products they produce, they have various affiliate companies, which can all be linked from the main OMA SUD website.
With high quality design and engineering, and the conducive weather and business climate that Florida has to offer, it appears the sky is the limit for Davide Proietti and OMA SUD.