Daniel on Matthias…
Most likely to: write a song about something we’ve achieved
Greatest strength: a huge intellect combined with a wealth of empathy
Biggest weakness: can’t see trees while controlling small prototypes…
Sebastian on Patrick…
Most likely to: invest all his money in sneakers
Greatest strength: sleeping four hours a night, yet having endless energy
Three words to describe him: numeric god, fashion hipster, social media fanatic (That’s seven words… Ed.)
Patrick on Daniel…
Greatest strength: ability to analyze anything in seconds
Biggest weakness: inability to multitask – try talking to him when he’s reading a menu
Three words to describe him: He. Always. Delivers.
Matthias on Sebastian…
Most likely to: invite you round for “pizza pasta”
Biggest weakness: “pizza pasta”
Not on his CV: owns a lock-picking set and even went on a lock-picking training course.
Where did the idea come from?
DW: as a kid at school I once had to draw the future (sound the cliché klaxon! Ed.), and the picture I drew was of a house, on top of a cliff, with a family, some children and a flying car in the backyard. But it wasn’t until 2013 that I started to take this idea more seriously.
I was studying as an exchange student in Glasgow when I first locked myself away in my room to develop some aircraft concepts that I felt could bring this form of transport to life. After roughly two weeks, my flatmate at the time, presumably concerned for my wellbeing, asked me what I was doing, and I explained. Over a beer, we made a pact that I would pursue this dream and one week later I returned to Germany to bring it to life.
From there it’s been the story of Lilium. The first person to join the team was a friend of mine, Sebastian. The second was a friend of his, Patrick. And the third, Matthias, joined us after what Patrick has since called ‘the worst pitch I ever gave’.
Together, the four of us, all students at the Technical University, Munich, co-founded Lilium.
What does it mean to fly?
MM: for me, flying is the ultimate expression of freedom. It’s a magical experience because it completely changes your perspective on your surroundings and the world. More than that, though, it satisfies a deeply human desire for overcoming our own boundaries and rising above what we perceive to be possible.
Why do you come to work each day?
SB: we are doing something here that has the potential to change the world. In terms of the difference it could make, we think it’s similar to the transition from horses to cars. While commercial flying has come down in price over the last couple of decades, nobody has ever succeeded in truly democratizing flight – making it available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
What is life like at Lilium?
PN: the hard task here isn’t building an aircraft, it’s building a company that can build an aircraft. And an airline. And airports. All at the same time. We’re lucky that we don’t have a company that can do this: we have a set of founders, family and friends that we call Lilium. And we’re ready to rock the most exciting and ambitious project in the history of aviation.
DW: Claude Dornier – A German aircraft designer who founded his own aerospace company. We’re based in Dornier’s old offices and I would love to pick his brains.
SB: Thomas Edison – I always wanted to be an inventor, so I’d pick the greatest inventor of all time.
MM: Sophie Scholl – She had unbendable determination in fighting injustice and suppression. I’d love to understand what kept her going when the going got tough.
PN: the Wright brothers – I’d like to buy the original flying guys a beer and explain how we’re making flying available for everyone.
What have we learnt so far?
DW: always take how complex you expect things to be and multiply by pi.
(We liked Daniel’s version, but we thought kickboxer Patrick’s version was more… honest? Ed.)
PN: if you think any task in a hardware start-up will be easy, then think again: reality frequently comes around and roundhouse kicks you in the nuts.
(Our hero photos from left to right are credited to the Bundesarchiv for the photo of Claude Dornier, The United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division for the photo of Thomas Edison, Ilse Aichinger for the photo of Sophie Scholl and Carillon Historical Park for the photo of the Wright Brothers.)