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By Elan Head

An award-winning journalist, Elan is also a commercial helicopter pilot and an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor with helicopter and instrument ratings. Follow her on Twitter @elanhead

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Cash-strapped Boeing pauses work at its NeXt innovation unit

Boeing is suspending work at Boeing NeXt, its innovation unit focused on next-generation air vehicles, including eVTOL air taxis.

Boeing Aurora PAV
Boeing NeXt projects include the Passenger Air Vehicle eVTOL prototype designed by Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences. Boeing Photo

According to Boeing spokesperson Alison Sheridan, the decision is part of Boeing’s “business transformation efforts to adapt to our new market reality and best position the company for the long term.” As reported in the Seattle Times, Boeing had already started to make cuts at the unit as a result of the 737 MAX crisis, even before the COVID-19 pandemic further battered the company’s revenues.

Boeing NeXt had led development of two eVTOL prototypes: the Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) designed by Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, and a Cargo Air Vehicle (CAV) for logistics applications. Both programs ran into problems during flight testing, with the PAV crashing on June 4, 2019, due to an incorrect activation of the vehicle’s ground mode, and the CAV crashing just two weeks later when it made a contingency landing in crosswinds that were higher than expected.

Aurora will remain a subsidiary of Boeing and will continue to be part of NeXt for the remainder of the year, Sheridan said, adding: “Management will assess several options regarding where this talented organization can make a meaningful and productive impact. In the meantime, it continues to run its business as usual.”

Meanwhile, Boeing’s continued investment in and participation with its joint ventures, investment companies and partners are “being evaluated and no decisions have been made yet,” Sheridan stated.

Those partnerships include its joint venture with Kitty Hawk in Wisk, which is developing the two-seat Cora eVTOL. A Wisk spokesperson told eVTOL.com, “Wisk is a healthy, independent company with a committed vision, mission and go-to-market plan. We are in a strong financial position with an exceptional team and we continue to execute on our current roadmap. As an investor, Boeing’s relationship with Wisk has not changed.”

Boeing is also an Uber Elevate vehicle partner, and last year announced a memorandum of understanding with Porsche to jointly explore the future of “premium personal urban air mobility vehicles.” The company also partnered with SparkCognition to launch SkyGrid, which is developing an airspace management system for autonomous aircraft.

According to Sheridan, despite the suspension of NeXt, “Boeing remains committed to its efforts around future mobility and innovation and will continue to invest in these areas in other parts of the company.”

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