Scimitar is busy—the outfit flew 33 weeks of trials last year, nine weeks more than their business plan had targeted. Marketing thus far has been by word-of-mouth: The 2Excel website only publicizes the Blades, and the company opted not to paint the Navajos gray to avoid drawing attention to the company and its work. But the flight-test operation is coming out of the shadows—two of the Navajos were on static display at the Farnborough air show (where the Blades performed daily), and Aviation Week's visit to Sywell marks the first time Scimitar has been presented to the media.
“We haven't got the scale or the capacity to do masses of work, so we didn't want to go so public that loads of people come to us,” Norton says. “Nor do we want to declare how we're doing it, so that people can copy us. Those are the risks in having this conversation.”
Yet, while popularity and imitation may be dangerous, so too is failing to explain the proposition. Persuading people to spend money earlier than they are used to is not always straightforward, even if the potential savings are considerable.
“[One company] said, 'I don't think I'm going to use you',” Norton recalls. “I asked, 'Why not?' They said, 'Because you're not reassuringly expensive.' I couldn't believe what I was hearing—but that is the cultural change that has to go on in every organization that doesn't do flight test and put it at the heart of their development programs.”