Joby Aviation established a certification basis with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its five-seat tiltrotor eVTOL aircraft last year, the company revealed, a key milestone toward launching commercial service by the company’s stated timeline of 2024.
Though the document is not yet public, Joby confirmed its certification basis — or G-1 issue paper — is based on the FAA’s Part 23 Amendment 64, which applies performance-based standards to small airplanes under 19 seats or 19,000 pounds maximum takeoff weight.
“While we still have several years of aircraft testing ahead of us, we now have a clearly defined, and achievable, path to certifying our aircraft and introducing customer flights,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby Aviation. “Reaching this milestone is a watershed moment for our new industry and I’m tremendously grateful for the many years of hard work the FAA and our in-house aviation safety experts have put into getting us to this point.”
Joby’s certification basis is understood to include special conditions to address unique characteristics of its eVTOL, including vertical flight performance capabilities and highly-integrated propulsion and flight control. The FAA declined to comment on an ongoing aircraft certification program.
These special conditions, to be publicly revealed when the document is published in the Federal Register, will be pored over by Joby’s numerous competitors angling to understand how to design a certifiable aircraft and follow closely behind.
“Every day I’m holding my breath, waiting for the Federal Register to show the G-1 for one of the eVTOL developers,” Mark Moore, former Uber Elevate chief technologist, said during the Vertical Flight Society’s Forum 76 in October. “We’ve got to open up the path clearly and publicly for these aircraft . . . until we see that, the industry will be blocked.”
The FAA has yet to lay out an exact path for an eVTOL aircraft to achieve certification, taking a more case-by-case approach than the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which has published draft special conditions for VTOL aircraft and electric and hybrid propulsion systems to guide applicants.
German air taxi developer Volocopter, which intends to begin commercial flights by 2023, told eVTOL.com that its EASA equivalent of a G-1 — a Certification Review Item (CRI)-AO1 — is close to being finalized.
“The CRI-A01 has been established by EASA and submitted to us for our product [the two-seat VoloCity eVTOL] and is currently in detailed final alignment with us as applicant,” a spokesperson for Volocopter said in an email.
Joby also revealed it has begun conducting revenue-generating flights for the U.S. Air Force via the service’s Agility Prime program, which granted the company’s aircraft an airworthiness approval in December. These flights are transmitting data to the Air Force on the aircraft’s flight envelope, operational utility, and baseline maintainability, according to AFWERX director Col. Nathan Diller — information that will then be used to assess use cases for logistics.
“With 10 years of engineering behind us and more than 1,000 test flights across various full scale prototypes, we’re excited to now be playing a key role in demonstrating the potential of this new sector while giving the U.S. Government a front row seat,” Bevirt said.
Last month, Reuters reported that Joby was exploring a deal to go public via merger with a blank-check acquisition company at a valuation of around $5 billion.