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


Former Airbus CEO Tom Enders named chairman of Lilium

Former Airbus CEO Tom Enders will become chairman of Lilium, the German eVTOL developer revealed in an analyst presentation on June 15.

Tom Enders Lilium
Former Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, who joined Lilium’s board of directors in January, has been named chairman of the German eVTOL developer. Lilium Photo

Enders was CEO of Airbus SE from 2012 to 2019, having previously served as CEO of the Airbus Commercial Aircraft Division. Before that, he was co-CEO of Airbus SE predecessor EADS, after serving as head of the group’s Defence Division.

Enders announced he was joining Lilium’s board in January this year, citing the company’s “pioneering spirit, innovation, and entrepreneurial courage.” Lilium, in filings associated with its planned merger with the blank-check company Qell Acquisition Corp (Nasdaq: QELL), highlighted Enders’ “substantial experience in delivering some of the world’s largest aircraft programs, as well as successfully building and shaping a world-class aerospace organization.”

Enders will assume the chairman role once the business combination — which is expected to close in mid-Q3 2021 — is complete.

During his time with Airbus, Enders was a champion of the big data analytics firm Palantir Technologies, which worked with Airbus to develop its Skywise open data platform. Palantir is a contributor to the private investment in public equity (PIPE) associated with the Qell merger and will supply its Foundry software to Lilium, as reported last month.

In its analyst presentation, Lilium provided some additional insight into the enterprise operating system it is developing with Palantir. In the near term, the system aims to enable optimized testing and supply chain management, while in the future it will also be used for predictive maintenance and flight operations.

“We’re going to be working with Lilium across the full value chain, to help them integrate data to more quickly develop, test, and build these revolutionary eVTOL aircraft,” said Palantir chief operating officer Shyam Sankar in a video highlighting key Lilium partners.

“Palantir is going to help Lilium to build these aircraft in an entirely new way, to build it data first, and build that into the operations, the performance, the comfort, the safety, and revolutionize actually how they manufacture and deliver these aircraft.”

Lilium Jet in flight
Although Lilium doesn’t expect to fly conforming prototypes of its seven-seat Lilium Jet until 2023, it is preparing to flight test an upgraded version of its five-seat demonstrator. Lilium Photo

The analyst presentation lays out an ambitious certification timeline and bullish revenue projections for Lilium’s seven-seat eVTOL Lilium Jet. Having already agreed to a certification basis with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Lilium projects it can achieve type certification for the aircraft in 2024, although it doesn’t expect to begin flight testing of conforming aircraft until 2023.

In a blog post last week, Lilium chief program officer Yves Yemsi and head of airworthiness Bhavesh Mandalia said they expect to use six or more prototype aircraft for testing “to efficiently test different configurations of the aircraft and perform numerous flight tests in parallel.” In the meantime, according to Lilium’s analyst presentation, the company is kicking off a flight test campaign for an upgraded version of the five-seat demonstrator that was destroyed in a battery-related ground fire in February 2020. Lilium said it has since designed a full thermal containment and venting system for the batteries in its demonstrator, and switched from cylindrical to pouch cells.

Lilium plans to launch commercial service in 2024 with the help of operations partners like Luxaviation Group. By 2026, Lilium projects that each of the aircraft in its regional air mobility network will be generating $5 million per year, optimistically assuming that each Lilium Jet flies around 25 flights of 60 miles (95 kilometers) per day with a load factor of 75 percent. Although each jet will have a unit cost of $2.5 million, Lilium claims that these exceptionally high utilization rates will allow it to offer its service at a price of just $2.25 per passenger-mile.

In addition to its regional air mobility service, Lilium is planning enterprise sales to “de-risk the business through immediate payback of the jet and revenue predictability.” Lilium anticipates it can earn a lifetime profit per aircraft of $5 million between upfront payments and revenue for aftermarket support.

This story has been updated with additional information from Lilium press materials.

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  1. Guy:
    The word jet was first used in 1661. The definition was : a usually forceful stream of fluid (such as water or gas) discharged from a narrow opening or a nozzle. While in the modern age we commonly think of jet as referring to jet engines on aircraft clearly as technology moves forward that traditional (yet not traditional) meaning might need some broadening just as it has since 1661.
    All the Best

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