Lilium has resumed flight testing of its updated five-seat “Phoenix” technology demonstrator, the company confirmed during its Capital Markets Day presentation on Aug. 2.
The German eVTOL developer suspended flight testing early last year after its first five-seat prototype was destroyed in a fire during post-flight maintenance activities at its headquarters near Munich. An independent incident investigation determined that the fire, which occurred during the installation of battery modules, was most likely due to thermal runaway, according to Lilium’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Lilium said it has “carried various lessons forward by redesigning the individual battery modules and the energy system, as well as the assembly process” in its new technology demonstrator. The company noted that the energy system used in its uncrewed technology demonstrators is not the same system that will feature in its seven-seat production model, which is currently under development and is expected to enter ground testing by the end of 2022.
Because the Phoenix is “representative of the flight physics and technology” of the seven-seat Lilium Jet, its flight test data will be crucial to Lilium meeting its ambitious certification targets. The company, which has already agreed to a certification basis with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, aims to obtain a type certificate for the passenger-carrying Lilium Jet in 2024.
Lilium’s Capital Markets Day was held in support of the company’s plans to go public through a combination with the special purpose acquisition company Qell Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: QELL). Qell is now targeting a shareholder vote to approve the merger in early September.
Also as part of its Capital Markets Day, Lilium announced plans for a strategic alliance with Azul S.A. that could see the Brazilian airline purchase 220 eVTOL Lilium Jets for up to $1 billion. According to an updated SEC filing, Lilium and Azul have agreed to work exclusively with each other to establish an eVTOL transportation network in Brazil. Although the commercial terms of the alliance have yet to be finalized, Azul will likely receive warrants to purchase up to 8 million shares of Lilium’s holding company, the filing indicates.
In a video accompanying Lilium’s Capital Markets Day presentation, Azul founder David Neeleman — who also founded the airlines WestJet and JetBlue Airways, among others — admitted that he’s “petrified of helicopters” but understands the convenience that a helicopter can bring to someone’s life.
“By having an aircraft like Lilium has, with a fraction of the cost of a helicopter, with much more safety, we think we can expand this market,” Neeleman said. “We think the market can be 10, or 20, or 30 times bigger than it is today… or even more.”