The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

FAA Creates Advanced Air Mobility Council as eVTOL Type Certifications Increase

The FAA is working on type certification with seven eVTOL aircraft developers, with these projects representing almost one-fifth of the 37 certification projects in which the U.S. agency is currently engaged. Speaking at a March 3 town hall meeting on advanced air mobility organized by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), FAA administrator Steve Dickson did not confirm which eVTOL manufacturers have type certification applications in the works or when these might be completed. Late last year, the agency acknowledged that it was processing six applications.

The meeting was held on the day after U.S. senators Jerry Moran (Republican-Kansas) and Kyrsten Sinema (Democrat-Arizona) introduced the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act in the Senate. This mirrors a bill introduced a week ago to the House of Representatives by  Sharice Davids (Democrat-Kansas) and Garret Graves (Republican-Louisiana) that would require Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to establish an interagency group to coordinate efforts to develop an AAM ecosystem to support widespread eVTOL aircraft operations. The NBAA and multiple other aviation industry groups support the legislation.

Dickson noted the varied issues surrounding the development of the sector, from certification to air traffic management. “It’s really important that we are taking a coordinated enterprise, agency-wide approach to all these issues,” he said, adding, "We are standing up an executive council to make sure we are looking at identifying all the issues and dealing with not only the certification of the machines but also how we will scale them and how we will operate them throughout the system.” 

The new FAA council will set and track AAM objectives, leading the development of an agency-wide integration plan, to make sure its safety goals are met, examine changes needed in FAA policies, resolve applicant and project issues, and oversee communication and outreach efforts.

“There are policy issues that get beyond aviation safety,” Dickson said, including, “How will these vehicles be used in society and what kind of benefits do they need to provide? We need to make sure we are enabling that innovation in a coherent way.”

The council will give the FAA leadership visibility across the agency, he concluded.