Raising global standards with Pipistrel

Photo: Pipistrel archive

November 2011

Pipistrel, a company owned by Mr Ivo Boscarol, has won the NASA award for the most efficient electric aircraft with its Taurus G4. The Taurus G4, the first four-seat aircraft with electric propulsion, was victorious over its only serious competitor — the German team's e-Genius aircraft. At this year's competition, Pipistrel cooperated with the Penn State University team headed by Dr Jack Langelaan, since only teams from the US are permitted to compete; Pipistrel has already received NASA's invitation for it to put its winning Taurus G4 on permanent display in its aviation museum.

Ivo Boscarol, Pipistrel's driving force

Photo: Pipistrel archive

Mr Boscarol was keen on amateur photography, aircraft model building and politics whilst at secondary school. During his studies, he worked as an art photographer and was the official photographer at Šentjakobsko Theatre for several years; he has also worked as a music journalist and band manager. He was involved in the printing business and was responsible for introducing badges to Yugoslavia. His involvement in aviation began when he first flew a glider and afterwards, in 1987, when he flew a powered hang glider. He obtained a powered hang gliding instructor's licence in the following year and, in 1991, organised the first ultra-light aircraft meeting in Ajdovščina. In 1987, he founded the first private aircraft factory in Yugoslavia, now known as Pipistrel d.o.o.

At first, the company produced only powered hang-gliders; as they were flying late in the evening with triangular shaped hang-glider wings, and using lights on the front of their aircraft, the locals jokingly started to refer to them as bats.  The Latin word for bat is pipistrellus — the rest, as they say, is history.

A symbol of victory

Photo: Pipistrel archive

Despite the fact that this is not the first time Pipistrel has received an award from NASA — Pipistrel has in fact already won three prizes — this latest accolade has met with a broad public response throughout Slovenia. The company was awarded USD 1.65 million, the biggest prize in the history of aviation competition. The Wall Street Journal estimates that the recognition brought about by this award is worth ten times that amount. It attracts the attention of potential investors who see a technically accomplished product worth investing in. NASA has teamed up with Google and thus prompted a level of media attention that money just cannot buy. Without doubt, no Slovenian product to date has gained such popularity. Only the Nobel Prize would be more widely publicised.

By focusing their attention on the NASA award, many media, as well as the political and economic spheres, somewhat neglected another important award. Last November, Mr Boscarol was awarded the prestigious European Business Award for the most innovative European company, a contest which attracted entries from over 15 000 companies from various industries and all 27 EU Member States. Boscarol's company became Europe's innovation giant because of its innovative product and business model; Pipistrel received the prize as the leading global company in the design and production of ultra-light motor glider aircraft.

Golden Order for Services

On 20 October 2011, President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Danilo Türk conferred the Golden Order on Boscarol's company, Pipistrel, for the success it has achieved through the work of its experts, all of whom keep abreast of the latest scientific advances and successfully transfer the latest knowledge into practice, enhancing it with their innovation, and who are responsible for creating new knowledge in order to advance the company in the world. Pipistrel's achievement is a reflection of its business philosophy, which is based on a clear vision, social and environmental responsibility, social sensitivity, professional focus and business ethics, all of which are a prerequisite for long-lasting success. This ranks Pipistrel among the Slovenian companies dedicated to excellence, a fact which is recognised by business partners and society at large.

Challenging NASA and Google

At the award ceremony, Pipistrel challenged NASA and Google, the contest's organisers, and other giants to set even higher goals for the next competition. Pipistrel announced its readiness to contribute USD 100 000 towards the prize money awarded to the company that succeeds in building the first electric powered supersonic aircraft. The audience was stunned into silence and then burst into applause. Later on, during informal conversation, the company was described as bold and the challenge itself likened to science fiction. In response, Mr Boscarol pointed out that, only three year's ago, today's achievement was perceived in much the same way. Pipistrel believes that barriers only exist in the mind. So, if one does not fear them, boundaries do not exist. The above mentioned landmark is now occupying the thoughts of institutes, flight academies, laboratories and universities worldwide, and there are already teams pondering how this could be done.

Not a story: a series of successes

Photo: Pipistrel archive

Mr Boscarol gives the impression of being a visionary driven by a desire to constantly innovate, rather than by an interest in the growth itself or generating profit. This is a formula for outstanding practice, and something which the company is willing to apply. The company could be considered a success story but, because of its constant growth, innovation and persistence, Pipistrel is better described as a series of successes. The constant flow of awards it has received throughout the world is testament to this. We can only hope such personalities and business practices become more prevalent in Slovenia.

Succeed or face defeat!

Mr Boscarol says that 'marketing' happens naturally, that sponsorships are not his cup of tea because they are expensive, and that he is more inclined to invest in development. He is a man who raises the benchmark and, at the same time, acts as a great motivator in the personal and business spheres of life. He offers a useful piece of advice to Sinfo's readers. In his view, there is only one key dilemma in one's personal or business life: Succeed or face defeat! Hence, there is no alternative — life must be dedicated to success. Success should be our life goal. We can achieve success by being innovative and self-assured. We have to set ambitious goals that go beyond borders in the global context and then we must possess complete self-confidence in order to achieve them. Because there are no borders — they only exist in the mind!

Text by Marko Šiška, Sinfo, November 2011 

Photo: Pipistrel archive