A high-altitude view of Brent Regan



From a business-to-business perspective, nobody knows Brent Regan better than Gordon Pratt, co-founder and president of Chelton Flight Systems in Boise. In 2001, Chelton was acquired by Cobham Avionics and Surveillance. Mr. Pratt was eager to conduct a short Q&A about one of his favorite characters.

NIBJ: If you were talking to a colleague who didn’t know him, how would you describe Brent?

GORDON: I find it difficult to describe Brent to people who have not met him. He is a world-class engineer of the variety that delivered the Apollo program and around whom businesses or industries are built. He is a master of multiple engineering disciplines and has an entrepreneurial streak as well. Brent is a physicist, chemist, machinist, metallurgist, philosopher, politician, and comedian. He looks at every problem, engineering and social alike, as a fun puzzle to be solved. On top of that, his ability to take ideas from napkin sketches to real working prototypes without leaving his hilltop lab in Coeur d’Alene simply defies logic. I can’t count the number of times I have told people, “You have to see it to believe it.”

NIBJ: What is it about working with Brent and Regan Designs that’s led to the strong relationship you have with him and his company?

GORDON: Before our corporate headquarters stepped in with their contracts department “to help,” Brent and I had worked together for years on a handshake. In 1998, Brent invested his intellectual capital in our company when we were a startup by providing engineering services to be paid for if we ever made enough money to pay. Since then, we have conducted millions of dollars of business together and Brent has always been dependable, honest, and committed, not because we now have a contract, but because that is the way he does business.

NIBJ: What impact has Brent’s work had on your company’s success?

GORDON: The ‘innovativeness’ of Brent’s designs has given us a tremendous competitive advantage in our marketplace. The only problem is that sometimes the thinking is so advanced that describing our technology to our customers is like explaining fire to a fish. Where most development in our (aerospace) market is evolutionary, Brent’s ideas are revolutionary. For example, Brent designed an advanced sensor component for us that combined two devices, historically about five pounds each, into a single device that weighs less than one pound. Our customers simply refused to believe this was possible until we achieved FAA certification and began delivering the product.

NIBJ: Do you have an anecdote you can share about him?

GORDON: When we began working with Brent, he would not charge us anything until he delivered a working prototype that we could install in an aircraft and test. When the product was finished, we would pay for it. Our corporate parent became aware of our arrangement with Brent. They couldn’t understand how business could possibly be conducted this way and insisted everything be formalized with contracts and paperwork. When one of our corporate executives asked Brent what would happen if he delivered a world-beating product and we decided not to pay him since we didn’t have a contract in place, Brent said, “No problem. I’ll just sell it to your competitor.”

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