The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

FutureFlight Weekly News Roundup

Paris Air Show Will Put eVTOL Aircraft Set To Star on World Stage

Ten or more eVTOL aircraft developers will be vying for attention (and in some cases, fresh funding) at this month’s Paris Air Show (June 19-25). Due to Covid restrictions in 2021, the biennial event hasn’t been staged at Le Bourget Airport since 2019, at which time the advanced air mobility field was still in its infancy. Now, some of the sector's leaders say they will have aircraft certified and in commercial service by 2025. 

Archer, from California, says its Midnight vehicle will make its international debut in Paris. Both Eve Air Mobility and Lilium will display full-scale mock-ups of their eVTOL cabins. At least seven other eVTOL developers are exhibiting, including Volocopter, Supernal, EHang, AutoFlight, Overair, and Joby, as well as France’s own Ascendance Flight Technologies, which is developing the Atea model.

Avidyne Introduces ‘Quantum’ Open Avionics Platform for AAM

Avionics specialist Avidyne announced last week its plans to introduce an open avionics platform called Quantum, which is designed for advanced air mobility aircraft. The avionics platform comes with a full suite of customizable hardware, software, and artificial intelligence processors, as well as access to Avidyne’s licensable intellectual property and engineering support services. The company said it will exhibit the platform at the Paris Air Show.

Archer Appoints Former FAA Administrator as Chief Safety Officer

In a bid to boost momentum toward type certification of its Midnight eVTOL aircraft, Archer Aviation this week appointed former acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen as its chief safety officer. He joins the company at a time when the advanced air mobility sector’s plans to launch commercial eVTOL air services by 2025 hinge on whether the U.S. aviation regulator has the bandwidth to deal with the many new type certification applications and to resolve the basis for the airworthiness approvals. “The commercialization of eVTOL aircraft is no longer a question of if but rather when," Nolen said, "and after careful consideration and assessing the competitive landscape, I joined Archer because I believe its approach to designing for certification and only developing the key enabling technologies necessary for eVTOL aircraft is the right recipe for success."

Former acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen is Archer Aviation's new chief safety officer.
Former acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen is Archer Aviation's new chief safety officer. (Image: Archer)

In an interview with the Financial Times on June 11, Archer CEO Adam Goldstein criticized EASA for the approach the European regulator is taking over eVTOL certification, complaining that it “risks shutting down the electric aircraft market,” before claiming that “EASA has openly said, we know our regulations are harder and not good for business, and we don’t care.”

Unlike the FAA, EASA has already published the standards and means of compliance for eVTOL type certification under its so-called Special Conditions-VTOL rules. Responding to Goldstein’s comments, the agency told FT.com: “Archer’s opinion is that high safety standards are not good for business. That view is not shared by EASA.” The regulator added that its safety objectives are based on risk assessment and that it expects the new air taxis to match safety standards for buses, before concluding that “EASA’s opinion is that setting such safety objectives enables business and protects future businesses.”

The AirCraft Company Reveals Corporate Version of Hybrid-electric Airliner

The AirCraft Company—a Wichita, Kansas-based start-up that recently announced plans to develop a family of hybrid-electric passenger aircraft—has revealed a corporate version of its 30-seat regional airliner. With 16 seats and three cabin zones, two of which are 106 inches (269 centimeters) long, the corporate version of the Pangea SY30J will have the widest cabin of any airplane of its size, according to the manufacturer. The 30-seat version of the Pangea SY30J, which the company said will be wheelchair-accessible, is also designed to be more spacious than any comparable airplane, with several inches of additional legroom and wider aisles and seats. 

Urban V and SITA Develop Digital Platform for Rome Vertiport

Italian vertiport developer Urban V is partnering with air transport IT specialist SITA to work on plans to support eVTOL air services in Rome that they say could start as early as 2024. Under a memorandum of understanding signed this week, the companies are focusing their efforts on the “test vertiport” Urban V intends to establish at the city’s Fiumicino Airport. 

Urban V is developing a vertiport at Rome's Fiumicino Airport.
Urban V is developing a vertiport at Rome's Fiumicino Airport. (Image: Urban V)

The partners said they will work on designing and testing the processes needed to get passengers on and off air taxi flights and develop a digital platform to support all aspects of operations. SITA has extensive experience in providing IT solutions for airport management, network connectivity, passenger support, and aircraft operations.

Cirrus’s IPO Could Raise Funds for Advanced Air Mobility Investment

Cirrus Aircraft said some of the new capital generated by its planned initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange could support its efforts to break into the advanced air mobility sector. Its filing with financial regulators summarizes ambitions to develop autonomous and simplified vehicle operations technology, as well as alternative fuel and propulsion solutions. “This may include developing aircraft that incorporate new technologies and address changes in the aircraft industry, including those from a regulatory perspective, such as changes to fuel requirements or developments in electric aircraft,” said the U.S.-based and Chinese-owned company on June 8.

Cirrus has not said how much it aims to raise, but the London-based International Finance Review reported a $300 million target. The company, which makes the SR20/22 piston aircraft and SF50 Vision Jet, was sold in 2011 to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) for approximately $210 million. CAIGA is a subsidiary of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), which makes airliners and military aircraft.

Aviation Industries of China Hints It May Have eVTOL Aircraft in the Works

The state-backed Aviation Industries of China (AVIC) appears to have plans to demonstrate an eVTOL aircraft. Chinese journalist Xin Gou this week reported that the company, which makes several airliners and general aviation aircraft, has revealed what appears to be a technology demonstrator for a four-seat vehicle. In a social media post, Gou said the aircraft, of which he posted an image, probably does not feature the intended tiltrotor configuration. In a press release, AVIC said it is looking to work with lithium battery producer CATL and Wolong Motor on the vehicle’s propulsion system.

Aviation Industries of China eVTOL technology demonstrator aircraft.
Aviation Industries of China has revealed what appears to be an eVTOL technology demonstrator aircraft. (Image: AVIC/Xin Gou)

Australia’s Hydrogen Fuel Alliance Targets Queensland Flight in 2026

Nine Australian organizations have joined forces to establish the Hydrogen Fuel Alliance to promote the adoption of green hydrogen in the aviation sector. The partners announced this week that their initial focus will be on preparing for the country’s first commercial hydrogen-powered flight in 2026 between Brisbane and Gladstone, which is about 500 kilometers farther north on the Queensland coast.

This flight is expected to happen with a Beech 1900D aircraft that one of the alliance members, Stralis Aircraft, plans to convert to hydrogen propulsion for its launch customer, Skytrans Airlines. Queensland-based Stralis said it will be ready to start flight testing a technology demonstrator based on the Beech Bonanza aircraft in 2024.

Other members of the alliance include Brisbane and Gladstone airports, Aviation Australia, hydrogen producer BOC (part of the Linde group), and H2 Energy Company, as well as Griffith University and Central Queensland University.

Stralis Aircraft is developing a hydrogen-powered Beech 1900D aircraft for Australian regional airline Skytrans.
Stralis Aircraft is developing a hydrogen-powered Beech 1900D aircraft for Australian regional airline Skytrans. (Image: Stralis Aircraft)