Episode #11 | Date Recorded: 2023-05-04 | Runtime: 13:06

About This Podcast Episode

Prepare for takeoff! In our latest Helix Insider Podcast, we dive into a deep conversation with 3XC CEO Jason Bittner about what prompted his love for aerospace, which ultimately led Jason to where he is now.

If you know someone in aerospace or aerospace engineering or someone who wants to pursue a career in aerospace, share this episode with them!

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Podcast Transcript

Lauren Gulli: Hello, everyone. My name is Lauren Gulli. I’m our Marketing Director here at Triple Helix Corporation, and I’m joined in studio today for our Helix Insider podcast by our wonderful CEO, Jason Bitner. So, Jason, knowing that you got your start for what you do today ››based in aerospace engineering, what is it that prompted your love for aerospace? What really got you into that industry and made you want to pursue a career in helping clients in the aerospace and engineering atmosphere?

Jason Bittner (CEO): You know, my love of aerospace and airplanes and aircraft stems from when I was really, really young. I have an insane amount of interest in the aviation industry, starting from when I was a young kid. I can remember the very first plane ride I took. And, you know, as a young kid, you know, you’re driving your mom and dad’s car and, you know, it’s fast and all that. But, you know, you get into an airplane the very first time you go through that takeoff, it’s faster than you’ve ever flown or moved in at all. And when I felt that first movement of the plane and I thought, oh, we couldn’t be going any faster and the plane actually got even faster. And then we took off. I was in the back of my head. I said, I’m hooked. I got to do this for the rest of my life, no matter what it is, whatever my path is going to take me, I’m going to go here.

Now, what’s interesting is I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I’m a Canuck originally and in Alberta, the industry primary industry is the oil and gas industry. It’s basically Canada’s Texas. And while no disrespect to that industry, I mean, it’s great. And, you know, we built our lives around growing and learning around the oil and gas industry.

I went to school in Alberta, in the University of Alberta for mechanical engineering. There really is no aerospace programs or actually in aerospace industry to speak of in Alberta. So I ended up taking a master’s program in aeronautical engineer at the University of Toronto and it was pretty unique. In fact, in Toronto, that program is only a graduate program anyway. So for me to actually learn aerospace engineering, it was kind of perfect in terms of timing. I had my undergrad and I was ready to move on to the next thing.So when I moved to Toronto and I did the aerospace program, we learned a lot. It was actually something called the Institute for Aerospace Studies or called UTIUS. And so the entire Institute is devoted to aeronautical engineering and space sciences and everything. It’s basically a nerd’s paradise as far as learning that industry. And ironically, or ironically, a lot of the students who graduate from that Institute go to work for a very local company called De Havilland.

So an aerospace company in Canada, Bombardier Aerospace, which owns a lot of different properties and whatnot, they had actually purchased De Havilland. And so De Havilland is the aircraft that have the high wing, the propellers, they’re really loud. When they go overhead, you cannot mistake that you’re looking at a De Havilland aircraft. This is the Dash 8s basically. And so as I graduated, De Havilland was actually just starting a certification program for the Dash 8-400Q. It’s the longest stretch version of the aircraft that they had made. And I was able to get into the company and not only that, I was hired into the test program, the flight test department. And oh my God, if you can’t imagine, the ultimate aircraft nerd’s dream is to be able to, right out of college,

you’re flying in these airplanes. And so I was put on flight crew for the Dash 8-400, 4,001, and we flew that airplane everywhere. And my job was to sit in the aircraft, record test data, basically do everything and anything related to certification of an aircraft. So if you go flight, like my very first experience with actually being in aerospace, I got to be in a test aircraft and actually fly for a living. It was just an absolute dream.

And the other thing I thought was very interesting was, you know, I’m this young, wet whippersnapper kid out of college. And there are people who have worked in the De Havilland in that test industry forever. And they, one guy comes up to me one day, he’s like, you know, we’re really jealous of you. And like, what? Why? I just got here. He’s like, well, we built this airplane, but you just showed up, get to fly in it. Like, damn! I always thought that was very interesting.

But I was very fortunate. I learned a lot from those people and I definitely stoked my love for working in the aircraft industry. Now, when I worked on the test program, you know, test aircraft are very interesting because the whole point is to shake out a new airplane. And in the test program, everything breaks. I mean, literally everything breaks. And when you come back from a flight, you have a list of all the problems that happen, you get into a debrief, and you sit in this room and all of the vendors are eagerly like sitting there wanting to hear what happened. Your AR is broke, the landing gear didn’t work right, something happened. And we’re asking them like, well, what do you got? And they were like, no idea. I’m like, we’ll get back to you. It’s like, okay, thank you.

However, and this is the thing that really drove me even further was that the engines on this aircraft were Pratt & Whitney engines, they were actually P150s. And that six bladed propeller, just a masterfully wonderful piece of engineering. And these Pratt & Whitney folks, they were so impressive. Whenever we came back from a flight, something was wrong. By the time we got to the debrief, they had already diagnosed what was wrong. They already were able to tell us how what was wrong with it. And they were already fixing it in the hangar while we’re having the debrief. It was just amazing. So I said to myself, I got to go work for these guys. And I did.

So in 1999, I actually moved into East Hartford, Connecticut, where we are currently, and formed a relationship with Pratt & Whitney. And I love this company. I mean, great people, great product. But you know, here’s the thing. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. And I realized that my path wasn’t going to keep me inside of a large company like Pratt & Whitney. I got this urge to go run my own company. And in 2006, I left the company and I came into running Triple Helix.

And so what I realized that I could actually serve my aerospace industry by actually doing more. And the thing is, when I did all the work that I did, when I worked in all these various jobs, I noticed back then that there wasn’t a lot of overlap with information and IT and technology with engineering. And what I did was I took it upon myself to learn what these companies were missing. Now at Pratt & Whitney, I mean, they don’t give them a lot in terms of data technology tools. I think that’s changed now. But at back in the day, they were basically given Microsoft Office. So they had Excel spreadsheets, they had Access databases and whatnot. And it was really difficult for them to do with the work they needed to do. And then the external supply chain, they had even less. But a lot of these companies that service Pratt & Whitney and the local area, they use the software tools called Enterprise Resource Planning software programs. And if you’re in manufacturing, and if you’re supporting a company like Pratt and the aerospace industry at large, you’re definitely using one of these systems. So ERP systems became sort of the mainstay of the work that we do, and helping them and supporting them and growing them, making them more efficient with their data.

And these ERP systems became the major focus for what Triple Helix is doing today. Absolutely. So having been so heavily involved in the aerospace industry and being in that in the day to day and really getting to know what those clients pain points are at a very up close and personal level really puts you in a great position to be able to service them in your business currently. Really having the chance to have gotten to know what the pain points are in that industry and be able to service them and provide them with solutions that will make their business operations easier.

Lauren Gulli: I know you already touched a little bit on your experience and some of the different experiences you’ve had in aerospace previously. Can you talk a little bit more specifically about your first job in the aerospace industry? Do you remember exactly what it was and what it was like?

Jason Bittner (CEO): That was the test job that I mentioned with Bombardier. That was my very first job in the aerospace industry, being able to get in the airplane and fly it and learn about the various things that the industry needed. One thing I actually noted too, what was interesting is that all the various systems in the aircraft are very unique. Lots of different vendors and suppliers that service them. Because you’re in the test program, you actually literally got to see every single one of these. It wasn’t just one aspect of the aircraft. We saw the engines, the wings, the landing gear, the internal systems, the electricals.

You really learn a lot when you’re in a program like that. In a test program, it’s like drinking from the fire hose. They’re given it to you as fast as you can take it. My ability to work on that program and learn all that thing, is really what gave me the flexibility to go out on my own and run Triple Helix because I had a fundamental understanding of the aircraft and with Pratt even more so with the engines and understanding what it is that they needed.

My own background, I’m a mechanical aeronautical engineer. I had a lot of experience in manufacturing, but I got to see it from the product line. Working with Pratt got an even deeper understanding. When I left Pratt and went onto form Triple Helix, I start seeing all these data challenges. One of the things that I did early on in my career is I realized that IT and information and stuff like this, it’s completely intertwined in everything that these guys do. A lot of people made their careers in one or the

other. I’m an engineer. I’m doing design. The IT, the programming, making software that works with engineering, it was always considered to be separate, but I realized it couldn’t be. It had to be combined.

Triple Helix’s mission was to actually just take the IT and the data and the understanding of how things work and marry them and actually make it more efficient. The impact we make in the industry is to actually have a focus in some area. We chose the manufacturing side. They have to make the parts. They have to make the subcomponents. They have to do them efficiently with high quality. If they can’t do that with good data, they’re sunk. We focused specifically on helping that industry and growing their technical skills in Acumen to be able to do so.

Lauren Gulli: Oh, absolutely. Just based on some of the conversations I’ve had with you, and I have family members who have also tried to go into aerospace and in different aspects to become pilots and whatnot, I can only imagine that the schooling required to get to that level where you’re able to fly an aircraft must be incredibly challenging. So, if we have any viewers out there who are interested in pursuing a career in aerospace or becoming more involved in aerospace engineering, what are some of the tips and pointers that you would give them going into that kind of a work environment?

Jason Bittner (CEO): You know, aerospace and engineering in general is very much of a team environment. I think I can say it for a lot of the folks that are engineers is that no one ever does this themselves. No one’s ever being an engineer by themselves. You’re part of a larger team. Right from when you go to college and you’re actually learning engineering, you’re doing it in a team environment. And so much more so when you come into a big company like Pratt & Whitney, or even supporting a company like a Pratt & Whitney, now we’re at Theon obviously.

And, you know, learning how to work as a team, learning the basic skills that you need to do. But one thing I can share with anyone who wants to really cut into this industry is to keep it relevant. Like when I was first doing my engineering jobs, no one was focusing on the data. Everyone was focusing on the mechanics of, say, the engine or the maintenance or the repair, which are all very, very important.

But the idea is that if you don’t understand the underlying data and making that relevant, then you’re going to miss something. And I was always able to, in every position I took since that very first one, focus in on something I thought was relevant. For me, it was the data. Can we make the engineers understand the product better?

Can we help our customers do better with the product by giving them better data and making better decisions with it? So that’s kind of where I focused. And like in today’s world, I mean, we’re hearing a lot about AI and chat GPT and things like that. And, you know, a lot of this technology is just going to accelerate faster and faster and faster. So for you to be able to make a mark in this industry, or any industry for that matter, is to look for what’s relevant. And for me and for, I think, the future of aerospace, is to look at these emerging technologies and stay relevant, learn the technologies, learn what’s coming ahead and get ahead of them. Because I can guarantee you the aerospace industry is going to start using this in a huge way, but they’re not doing it yet. And they’re probably not even aware of how. The experts are, but there’s not enough of them. So to be experts and to be successful in this area, you want to get ahead of it and learn as much as you can upfront and then apply that in probably a way and no one’s thinking right now.

Lauren Gulli: Very interesting. So as always, I mean, it’s very fascinating to me and I’m sure to a lot of our audience members to hear about the career that you’ve had and your developments in aerospace and aerospace engineering. And really we wanted to do this special bonus podcast segment to really bring light to that and kind of share some insight to anyone who might be interested in pursuing a career in aerospace. I think you have a lot of really valuable experience and firsthand knowledge that you can share with our audience. That’s all we have time for today, but I want to thank everybody for listening to our Helix Insider podcast. And until next time, have a great day, everybody!