Vertical Aerospace has appointed Justin Paines as its chief test pilot, having recruited him from rival eVTOL aircraft developer Joby Aviation. The former Royal Air Force (RAF) test pilot will lead flight testing of the prototype for Vertical's four-passenger VA-X4 model, which will now begin in 2022.
The UK-based company has previously said that it expected flight testing to get underway before the end of 2021, as it aims to bring the aircraft into commercial service in 2024. This milestone has now been pushed back by several months due to what are understood to be production delays related to one particular tool required to manufacture the first prototype.
Paines has been with California-based Joby for the past three years and has been involved in development work on its S4 prototype. As a military test pilot with the RAF and the U.S. Air Force, he was involved with the V/STOL vehicle control system that was later adopted by Lockheed Martin for the Joint Strike fighter. He has also flown aircraft such as the Harrier, the X-35 experimental aircraft, and the UK’s fly-by-wire VAAC Harrier testbed.
In recent months, Vertical has announced provisional orders for its eVTOL model valued at $5.4 billion from customers including American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and leasing group Avolon. It is in the process of completing a merger with special purpose acquisition company Broadstone, which will lead to a public equity listing on Wall Street.
“Vertical has an amazing team of engineers, the right design approach, and partnerships with some of the best aerospace and airline companies in the world,” Paines commented. “This combination is what attracted me to Vertical and I am totally confident in their ability to deliver a certified aircraft that will transform aviation.”
Paines was educated at the UK’s Oxford University and holds a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former chief instructor at the Empire Test Pilots’ School.
This week, Vertical also announced the appointment of Harry Holt as its chief operating officer. He will join the company at the end of 2021 from aircraft engines group Rolls-Royce, where he is currently the chief people officer.