Rob Wiesenthal is flying high. Quite literally. The former CFO of Sony Corporation and COO of Warner Music Group is now the CEO of BLADE Urban Air Mobility, Inc — a New Yorkbased urban mobility service that includes luxury choppers.

When ETPanache meets Wiesenthal, he is sharply dressed in jeans, a blazer and statement frames. He makes an entrance as he disembarks the helicopter at Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai, rattling off observations to staff waiting nearby.

During a chat, the 53-year-old talks startups, tells us why it is okay not to have an MBA and how he’s happy he doesn’t have to work with family.

After years in the entertainment industry you moved to aviation. How do you know when it’s time to make a big change?

I’ve been working in corporate America since I was 21 and when I left I was 49 — it was now or never. I did a long time in corporate America and I felt I had the skills and saw the opportunity.

What advice would you give people — stick around in the same job or move around?

I never got an MBA. I think that working right after college at a big company gets you terrific skills. Too many people, especially now, think it’s fashionable to jump in startups, but there is no one there to teach them. I would say go to an investment bank for two years, go to a big company. Learn how to write, learn a little about finance, marketing, how to communicate and collaborate. They’re [startup employees] clever but their foundation is not strong.

Rob Wiesenthal
Rob Wiesenthal shares why it is okay not to have an MBA .

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got bad press because of their frequent private jet usage. If they can’t justify their use of private air transport, how can others?

Environment is a big concern for us, but there is a misconception that helicopters are huge polluters. In terms of jets, people are concerned. But we need to be more sensitive to the environment in everything we do. Consumers want to see that you’re not just thinking about the bottom line. We move organs every week and we are saving lives. I’ll give you an example from New York. One helicopter going to the airport with six people has less of a carbon footprint that an SUV. It’s 40 gallons of fuel per hour and it’s a five-minute flight versus two hours in an SUV.

How does a company handle bad press after an accident?

You have to be transparent. You keep your phone on, talk to everyone — tell them the truth — tell them what you know and tell them what you don’t know as well.

You’ve been surrounded by celebrities and businessmen. You’ve played the ukulele with Roger Waters on stage and were friends with Michael Jackson. Can you really have friends in business?

Good question. Sometimes it can happen naturally; you become friends with someone you have done business with. Blade India was formed because of a relationship with one of the partners. Our kids went to the same school. However, working with family is a little bit tougher. Family is a life sentence, friendships you can gracefully exit. I do not envy people with family businesses (laughs).

Seven Seaplanes For Your Flight Of Fancy

PM Modi Making A Splash Flying

20 Dec, 2017

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a splash flying on a seaplane recently. While it was mistaken as the ‘country’s first seaplane flight’ by some, these amphibious aircrafts are not a common sight on Indian waterfronts yet. However, seaplanes are popular leisure and strategic flight choices around the world.

Here are some of the admired amphibious flying machines:

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