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Management Profile

David Groen,
Chairman, President, CEO and CFO


David Groen, cofounder with his brother Jay of Groen Brothers Aviation (“GBA”) in 1986, served as its President & CEO for the past twenty four years, becoming Chairman following Jay’s death in 2006.  Mr. Groen is a highly experienced military and commercial helicopter pilot with over 7,000 hours in rotor-wing and fixed-wing aircraft.  A graduate of the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Flight Training School, he served in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot and Aircraft Commander, flying hundreds of combat sorties.  David’s Vietnam experience also enabled him to show a broader side to his skills, as co-author along with his brother Jay, of a best-selling novel entitled “Huey”.

Subsequently, in industry, his commercial helicopter missions included Emergency Medical Services, power line patrol and construction, topographical survey and map making, USGS map making, wildlife management, tour guide, heli-skiing, forest fire fighting, seismic oil exploration, and on-shore and off-shore wildcat oil drilling operations, both in the USA and overseas.  In addition to his flight responsibilities, he has held numerous helicopter industry executive positions with Sales, Safety Officer, Branch Manager, and Chief Pilot responsibilities.

David’s extensive helicopter experience gave him a fundamental understanding of the capabilities of rotorcraft, but also an awareness of the intrinsic limitations of the helicopter platform.  This insight led David and Jay to found GBA with the goal of re-discovering and developing the science of sustained autorotative flight:  gyroplanes and gyrodynes.  By 2001 they had grown GBA’s staff to over 130 people; flown the world’s first turbine-powered gyroplane, the GBA Hawk 4; and were proceeding toward FAA commercial certification of that aircraft.  The same year, however, the impact of the severe economic down turn of the “Tech Sector” crash, and subsequently 9/11, to insure the Company’s survival necessitated that management reassess its strategy.  In order to conserve the Company, David ended the certification program, reducing the work force substantially, but retaining the resources necessary to continue to move the Company’s science forward.

David’s continuing emphasis on exploiting the potential of sustained autorotative flight technology gained quick recognition. As early as 2002, the Aerospace Industries Association Executive Report stated that, “What the Wright Brothers did for the airplane 100 years ago, the Groen Brothers are doing for the gyroplane today.” In 2005 the Company was awarded a very significant contract from the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a preliminary design for a demonstrator gyrodyne rotorcraft, named “Heliplane” by DARPA, designed to serve in a Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR) role.  In Phase I of this project GBA developed the necessary technology to allow the Heliplane to achieve vertical takeoff and landing at high elevations, a top speed in excess of 400 mph, and impressive payload and range.  This  technology has a broad range of important military and commercial applications that the Company intends to exploit.

David has served two one-year terms as a Member of the Board of Governors of the AIA.  In April, 2011 he gave a principal keynote address to the Chinese International General Aviation Summit in Shanghai that formally met to review the important opening in China of low-altitude airspace for commercial and private flight.  His presentation, “An Airplane That Doesn’t Need A Runway,” which is what a gyroplane is, has generated a great deal of interest in a land that has few airports compared to its need.

Robin H.H. Wilson,
Executive Vice President and
Chief Operating Officer


Mr. Wilson brings to his role as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, the leadership and management wisdom gained during 40 years of executive management experience in the transportation industry.

Among his leadership positions, Mr. Wilson served for 17 years at Trans World Airlines (TWA) ending his first period with TWA as Senior Vice President, Operations, responsible for managing an annual budget of $2 billion; Subsequently, as the President of the Long Island Railroad, his positive impact on the operation of that railroad and on the economy of Long Island, earned him an induction into the New York Hall of Fame. Succeeding positions included: President, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Western Airlines, Inc.; President, CEO and Director of Burlington Air Express; and Chief Technical Officer of Guinness Peak Aviation (GPA), then the world's largest aircraft leasing company.

Following TWA entering Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 1992, he was asked to return to the airline to serve as Co-chief Executive. After TWA's emergence from Chapter 11, he was appointed Vice Chairman with responsibility for the principal operating functions of the airline, resigning that position after the appointment of a new CEO. Before joining GBA he was a Partner and Director of SH&E, the international aviation consultants.

A native of Dublin, Ireland, Mr. Wilson received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Mechanical Sciences from Cambridge University in 1958 and later a Master of Business Administration degree with honors from Harvard University. He also was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Adelphi University, New York.

Mr. Wilson, with his respected reputation within the world-wide aviation/aerospace industry and long list of contacts established over his meritorious career, has worked with the late Jay Groen, as Jay initiated important contacts in governmental and aerospace industry sectors, and in broadening that impact on international scale. Thus Mr. Wilson will continue to represent GBA with established connections and cultivate new contacts in the Company's efforts to further the success of autorotative flight.

Nathan W. Drage,
Corporate Counsel


A member of the Utah and California Bar associations, Mr. Drage has represented the Company for over fifteen years. Mr. Drage obtained his Bachelors of Science in Finance from the University of Utah (1983) and his Juris Doctor from McGeorge School of Law (1987). Specializing in securities and corporate law, Mr. Drage is a member of the securities law and international law sections of the American Bar Association. While in private practice Mr. Drage has represented publicly and privately held corporate clients throughout the United States in various financing matters and state and federal securities compliance. Appointed by the Governor of Utah, he is the former Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Utah Division of Corporations (1989-91) and former Utah Bar Association panel member for revisions to the Utah Business Corporation Act and the Utah Limited Partnership Act.

Mr. Drage currently serves on various committees of the American Bar Association, including the Committee on Federal Regulation of Securities, Subcommittee on Annual Review of Federal Securities Regulation, Subcommittee on Civil Litigation and SEC Enforcement Matters, Task Force on Future of Securities Regulation, and Subcommittee on Small Business Issuers. Mr. Drage is currently a contributing legal writer for Utah Business Magazine.

J J (Jaap) van der Westhuizen,
Senior Vice President and
Chief Technical Officer


Mr. Van Der Westhuizen heads GBA’s technology development efforts as Senior Vice President & Chief Technical Officer (CTO). He has leadership responsibility for GBA’s engineering teams, with oversight for the company’s aircraft development programs including the US Department of Defense DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) Heliplane contract and the SparrowHawk and the Hawk series design efforts. He also has responsibility for the Company’s research and development programs for the use of autorotative flight for manned and unmanned flight. His superior engineering management skills has brought disciplined “out-of-the-box” thinking to the Company, enhancing significantly its understanding of autorotative flight.

His considerable experience in management covers functions such as manufacturing, program and project management, manufacturing engineering, marketing, sales, logistics, SAP and MIS. His career covers a long period in the aviation manufacturing industry where he held several important leadership positions at Denel Aviation of Johannesburg, South Africa. At both Denel, then called Simera, and at Atlas Aircraft Corporation, he was involved in organizational re-engineering that resulted in such significant improvements, leading to the awarding of important contracts to those organizations.

Mr. Van Der Westhuizen was also a part time lecturer in general management at the University of South Africa School for Business Leadership for the Management Development Program.

M. Bruce Tinnesand,
Vice President of Manufacturing


GBA derives great benefit from Mr. Tinnesand’s more than 30 years of experience in a manufacturing environment, much of it coordinating maintenance functions. He initiated and implemented a company-wide computerized maintenance system and preventive maintenance program. Down time on a large production line was reduced to world class levels under his leadership. He has owned and operated his own successful business and was previously Production Manager of the Company’s Arizona facility.

Mr. Tinnesand served in Europe with the US Army Security Agency and has 12 years experience as a Police Reserve Officer. His maintenance, management and business careers bring a diversity of experience and knowledge.

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Al Waddill,
Vice President of Business Development


Mr. Waddill's background and training is in both technology and aviation, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the University of Houston. Notably, he has particular experience in emergent technologies, playing a significant role starting in 1987 early in the development of the cellular telephone business, including moderating six annual technical seminars for cellular operators. Subsequently he joined Morgan Stanley in the mid 90s where he presented regular seminars on digital technology companies.

A licensed pilot since his seventeenth birthday, he was an active member of the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA) during its first ten years. He opened and operated two USHGA flight parks, taught hang gliding and organized national flying competitions. Earlier in his career, in the 1960s, he was a dealer for a company that produced a certified gyroplane. His resulting understanding of the opportunities for autorotative flight to bring a disruptive technology to the aerospace industry is a unique asset for the GBA team.

Terry Brandt,
Vice President of Flight Operations


Mr. Brandt has been with Groen Brothers Aviation since 1999 and is currently Vice President Flight Operations and Chief Flight Instructor at GBA’s Flight Operations and Flight Test Facility in Buckeye, Arizona. A flight instructor since 1978, Mr. Brandt is a National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) Master CFI (Certificated Flight Instructor), a designation achieved by only a few hundred out of the estimated 90,000 CFI’s in the United States. In addition to gyroplanes, he pilots airplanes, gliders and helicopters. He is a Designated Pilot Examiner for Gliders and Sport Pilots — Gyroplanes, Gliders, and Airplanes.

Mr. Brandt has a Bachelor of Science from San Diego State and Masters Degrees in Education and Business from Chapman University, Pepperdine University, and the University of Northern Colorado. He has served in the U.S. Army, instructed in high schools and colleges more than 10 years teaching sciences, business and technical subjects. In his capacity of Flight Instructor, he has taught countless people to fly airplanes, gliders, and gyroplanes.

Andrew Saunders,
Deputy CFO and Controller


Andrew Saunders, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA), has over 11 years of experience providing information, accounting services, process improvements and financial analysis. Mr. Saunders has a strong background in manufacturing, cost accounting, and Lean and Throughput accounting. He has also acted as a consultant for several companies on Sarbanes-Oxley and internal controls.

Mr. Saunders cost accounting experience relating to the manufacturing process and inventory control has proven great benefit for Groen Brothers Aviation's American Autogyro Division and its kit-built SparrowHawk Gyroplane program, where he directs all costing and pricing. He is the Business Manager for the DARPA/GBA Heliplane contract where he performs contract management, monthly reporting to DARPA including earned value analysis, and works with DCAA's auditors and cost allocations. Mr. Saunders is also the Project Manager for Sarbanes-Oxley implementation.

Mr. Saunders is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Utah and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants. He graduated with honors from Weber State University with a Masters of Professional Accountancy degree and Information Systems certification.

The Late H. Jay Groen,
Founder and Chairman Emeritus


GBA was saddened in early October, 2006, to announce the passing of Chairman Jay Groen at his home in Washington DC. Jay battled cancer for almost two years, a challenge he faced with his characteristic directness, determination, and humor. Jay and his brother David co-founded GBA in 1986 to develop modern autorotative aircraft. Jay Groen was deeply committed to the company’s success and was instrumental in initiating important contacts in governmental and aerospace industry sectors. GBA was recently awarded a major research contract by the US Department of Defense to advance their rotor-wing technology.

Before Jay and his brother David formed GBA, they co-founded Seagull Recycling Company, an organization that developed an original supply of secondary paper fiber for sale to domestic and Far East markets. Prior to this business venture, he was the President of China West, Inc., a Washington D.C. based organization representing U.S. firms in the Peoples Republic of China.

Early in his career, Mr. Groen spent ten years as an Economist for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) doing original research on Asia, with a particular interest on the People’s Republic of China. As part of his responsibilities with the CIA, Mr. Groen prepared written and oral briefs for the White House staff and members of Congress, and lectured at the National War College. Mr. Groen served in the U.S. Air Force as a Chinese Linguist in both Vietnam and Asia, logging more than 100 combat missions in a special airborne intelligence function.

Mr. Groen’ held an M.A. in Economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, a B.A. in Economics from the University of Utah and a Language Certificate in Mandarin Chinese from Yale University.

Mr. Groen co-authored, along with his brother David, a best selling book entitled Huey, a novel about a helicopter pilot’s experiences in the Vietnam War.A private pilot with a practical background in aeronautical design, Mr. Groen added much innovation to the Hawk series of Gyroplanes.

“Jay’s passing leaves a void within us all, but at the same time furthers our resolve to succeed in this endeavor to celebrate his dedication, devotion and persistence” said David Groen.