Inventor-record holder shares story of triumph in adversity

Chip Yates draws parallels between his own story and IWV history in overcoming obstacles to achieve success

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Inventor-record holder shares story of triumph in adversitySometimes a lack of resources is not a deterrent to success, but a vehicle for it — especially when that deficit is offset by creativity, passion and old-fashioned hard work.

Headlining a slate of innovative speakers for the annual IWV Economic Outlook Conference (see also related story), inventor-entrepreneur-record setter Chip Yates reflected on how each of those ingredients played a role in his world-class achievements in electric-powered vehicles for land and air.

Yates grew up one of four siblings in a working-class family in California. In the absence of the means to purchase a go-kart, young Chip resorted to digging through discarded mechanical parts to build his own. Although his first creation didn’t run, the motorcycle he built at age 14 did. And his handiwork only got better from there.

Fast forward through military school, college, graduate school and a successful career as a Boeing executive. Yates returned as a 30-something to his first love.

After dominating the electric-powered motorcycle circuit, Yates shifted his focus to electric-powered aircraft. For this new venture he set up a base of operations at Inyokern Airport. Within a period of only a few months, Yates and his small, but dedicated, team of engineers had converted a Long EZ to run on the battery technology he designed for the motorcycle.

Just days after receiving his pilot’s license, he flew more than 200 miles per hour above the Indian Wells Valley to obliterate the standing record for speed.

Since then he has set eight official records (six of those at IYK) while becoming a popular speaker among the experimental aircraft community.

Although his feats have garnered national and international attention, Yates’ long-term goal is to develop his battery technology to include mid-flight refueling capability in order to duplicate the Lindbergh route in an electric-powered airplane.

Yates underscored that striving is a critical part of innovation — that acute time and resource constraints are what fuel technological evolution. He said that despite Boeing’s multibillion-dollar budget and tens of thousands of employees, when it comes to defeating impossible odds, he would bet on his three volunteers with zero funding.

Likewise, Los Angeles’ many-orders-of-magnitude-greater budget and population cannot compete with the passion and hard work of a tiny, isolated community united behind a cause.

He encouraged the residents of the Indian Wells Valley to identify what makes us unique and join forces to promote that to the outside world. (He noted that communities with just as few resources have demonstrated how to successfully forge that path).

The key is in mobilizing the community to put momentum behind that idea. “You can’t steer a parked car,” he said.

Story First Published: 2014-03-05