Autonomous flight innovator Xwing has recruited aerospace industry leader Fred Cromer to be its chief financial officer as the company works to begin commercial cargo services with Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft converted to remotely piloted operations. Cromer is the former president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft and also of International Leasing Finance Corporation, and he previously held airline CFO roles at Continental Express and ExpressJet Holdings.
Earlier this year, California-based Xwing raised $40 million in a funding round. After successfully demonstrating a complete gate-to-gate operation of the system, it is seeking FAA approval to operate its Caravan demonstrator aircraft under an experimental certificate with its Part 135 operating subsidiary San Antonio Air Charter. The company also recently partnered with the Caravan’s manufacturer, Textron, to explore opportunities to market conversion packages.
Given his extensive experience with airlines and a major aircraft manufacturer, Cromer will strengthen Xwing’s leadership team at a time when it is seeking to step up the commercialization of its technology. He left Bombardier after the Canadian aerospace group sold its airliner manufacturing division to Airbus.
“We’re aiming to bring complex technology to market and it’s good to combine experience and knowledge with talent and ambition, as this is a very regulated industry,” he said when asked by FutureFlight about his transition from a blue-chip aviation corporation to a young start-up. “The path Xwing is taking is to modify existing aircraft, which is a very practical approach and a quicker route to certification.”
Acknowledging the need for further fundraising, Cromer said his background as a strategic CFO should be productive as Xwing seeks more capital. “We’ve been successful to date, and we also have to make sure we have the right financial discipline and can expand our capabilities as we grow.”
Reflecting on his time in airline management and aircraft manufacturing, Cromer said that the automation Xwing is promising will give operators a chance to transform the economics of their business, starting with freight services but eventually including passenger flights, too. “Existing aircraft already have a fair amount of autonomous capability, but we are now close to delivering much more in the near term, and the efficiency this will bring to the table will translate into significantly reduced costs for regional operators,” he stated. The company sees its autonomous technology making flights into currently under-served airports commercially viable.
Cromer’s arrival at Xwing follows other recent appointments such a Jesse Kallman as vice president of commercialization and strategy. The company also now benefits from seasoned advisers, including former Airbus Americas chairman and CEO Allan McArtor, former WestAir COO Jeff Martin, and former FedEx Global Air Operations CEO Greg Hall.