Vertical Aerospace has announced a key hire in chief test pilot Justin Paines, a former Royal Air Force test pilot who helped develop the unified flight control system that was adopted for the vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) version of the Lockheed Martin F-35.
Paines joins the U.K.-based eVTOL developer from Joby Aviation in California, where he held the same role for the past three years as he helped Joby develop its own unified flight control strategy. As one of a small number of test pilots with significant experience involving eVTOL aircraft, Paines brings unique expertise and credibility to Vertical Aerospace as it works toward the first flight of its VA-X4 prototype.
“Vertical has an amazing team of engineers, the right design approach, and partnerships with the some of the best aerospace and airline companies in the world,” Paines stated in a press release. “This combination is what attracted me to Vertical and I am totally confident in their ability to deliver a certified aircraft that will transform aviation.”
Paines holds a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School as Distinguished Graduate in 1995. His career as a test pilot has focused on V/STOL flight control research and development, on platforms including the Harrier jet, the X-35 concept demonstrator aircraft, and the U.K.’s fly-by-wire Vectored thrust Aircraft Advanced flight Control (VAAC) Harrier test bed.
Paines will be based at Vertical Aerospace’s innovation and development facility in Bristol and is expected to conduct the first piloted flight of the VA-X4 sometime in 2022. Although the company was originally planning to conduct the first, uncrewed test flight of its full-scale prototype by the end of this year, that has been pushed to the first quarter of 2022, according to a recent analyst day presentation.
The company is aiming to certify its five-seat, fully electric air taxi by 2024.
“Justin brings over three decades of outstanding expertise in piloting some of the world’s most iconic aircraft,” stated Vertical Aerospace CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick. “He will be a key part of the team that takes our VA-X4 through to certification and we are tremendously excited to have him aboard our growing team.”
Joby’s flight test team is now under the leadership of chief test pilot James “Buddy” Denham, who joined Joby in 2019 after a career in the Naval Air Systems Command as an Esteemed Technical Fellow.
“His expertise in the area of research, development, test and evaluation of advanced flight controls and flight dynamics contributed to the development and performance of fixed-wing carrier aircraft, [V/STOL] and rotary-wing aircraft, including the F-35B,” a Joby spokeswoman said of Denham, adding, “We’re grateful for Justin Paines’ service with Joby as he returns to the U.K. to be closer to his family.”
This story has been updated to include comment from Joby Aviation.