The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Archer Poised To Resume Flight Testing of Its Maker eVTOL Technology Demonstrator

Archer Aviation will resume flight testing of its two-seat Maker eVTOL aircraft technology demonstrator in the next few weeks, the company told financial analysts in a first-quarter results briefing on May 12. The start-up—which has so far conducted only one short hover flight, on Dec. 16, 2021—said it will progressively increase flight testing to several sorties per week until it is ready to make a full transition from vertical to horizontal flight by the end of 2022.

The company said it does not anticipate delays to its goal of being ready to start commercial air taxi services by the end of 2024, despite reports this week that the FAA is looking to revise the basis for approving eVTOL aircraft to “special condition” rules of its 21.17 (b) regulations. Until now, companies in the advanced air mobility sector have widely understood that existing 14 CFR Part 23 rules for small fixed-wing aircraft would be the foundation of their type certification campaigns.

Archer CEO Adam Goldstein described the anticipated policy shift as “a minor change” and said the company is prepared to deal with more changes that may come in the type certification process. “We support the FAA’s effort to put a more comprehensive certification framework in place for our industry,” he commented, adding that he does not expect it “will have a material impact on our certification timeline.”

As of March 31, Archer reported a net loss of $59.2 million, based on total operating expenses of $63.5 million, which increased compared with the last quarter of 2021 as investments in personnel and equipment have been stepped up. At that point, it held cash totaling $704.2 million.

The company forecast that operating expenses for the second quarter of this year will further increase to between $80 million and $86 million. It flagged up a degree of uncertainty over costs associated with stock-based compensation in an apparent reference to an anticipated separation agreement with co-founder and former co-CEO Brett Adcock, who resigned from the Archer board earlier this week.

In a since-deleted Twitter post on May 9, Adcock indicated that he no longer supported the director’s vision for the company. Questioned by analysts about the sudden change in Archer’s top-level leadership, Goldstein insisted that the board’s vision for the company has been “intact and unwavering from day one,” with a goal of building and commercializing a vehicle “that is safe, quiet, and affordable and certified by the end of 2024.”

Archer’s chief operating officer, Tom Muniz, reported that the engineering team is now shifting focus to detailed design work on the full-scale, four-passenger eVTOL. He added that a new advisory committee set up with key investor and prospective customer United Airlines is reviewing the design of the production aircraft to consider issues such as making it easy to maintain. 

Muniz added that the company has used the interlude since the Maker's first hover flight to conduct extensive ground testing of systems. He said these tests have provided valuable data for the development of the full-scale aircraft.