Zean Nielsen recently took over as CEO at Cirrus Aircraft—a company well-known for its top-of-the-line small piston planes and personal jets—and while new to aviation, he’s certainly not winging it. He previously led teams at Tesla Motors and Bang & Olufsen, so fliers can expect an emphasis on tech. Cirrus Services also announced a high-tech facility that will offer VR training so you can learn how not to crash your jet virtually before taking it to the skies. We catch up with Nielsen below to get his take on the industry.
Coming from outside of the industry, how do you see private aviation?
To me private, or general aviation, as it’s more widely known in the industry, is summed up best by what our team calls “personal aviation.” It transforms lives by erasing boundaries and redefining time—opening access to more than 5,000 airports in the United States alone and allowing you to travel on your own terms.
Do you see any trends right now?
Safety and convenience are always front of mind—and now new technologies will further advance those areas. Cirrus has lasered in on safety since day one with its Airframe parachute system, and we continue to do so through our training platform, Cirrus Approach [both online education and instruction at the company’s campus in Knoxville, Tenn.]. Innovation will center on decreasing pilot workload for both new and skilled pilots.
What’s your favorite aspect of flying?
It’s hard not to be taken by a reconnection to the childhood wonder of floating through the clouds. But the most compelling aspect of flying is experiencing a lifestyle where you can have it all. On a regular basis, I now attend meetings out of town and still make it home in time for dinner. The milestones in my life are no longer a mixture of special moments and moments I’ve missed—now I am there.