The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

As of August 2019, the future of the electrically powered, fixed-wing aircraft Zunum remained in question, with no updates on the funding status of the program since a statement by Zunum Aero in December 2018 confirming that it had not been able to complete a planned funding round. The aircraft had been projected to enter service in 2022, but with hopes fading for a planned first prototype flight during 2019, this seems highly unlikely.  Early backers Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures have both withdrawn support from the program. It has received around $800,000 in financial aid from the state of Washington's Clean Energy Fund.

Zunum Aero has also established a partnership with the University of Illinois' Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems. 

In May 2018, private charter group JetSuite announced its intention to become the launch customer for a 12-seat version of the aircraft. As of August 2019, it was unclear whether or not this agreement was still in place.

In October 2018, Zunum Aero reached an agreement with Safran Helicopter Engines for the French manufacturer to provide its Ardiden 3 turboshaft engine to provide power for the aircraft's electrical generators.


Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

As of mid-2018, prospects for Zunum Aero looked bright. The company's launch had been boosted by the support of Boeing's HorizonX division and JetBlue Technology Ventures. A launch order from charter operator JetSuite in May 2018 provided further impetus. But then, the U.S. startup struggled to complete a planned new round of fund-raising and until further investment is confirmed, the future of the program has to be in question.

Zunum Models

Zunum Specifications

Optionally-piloted regional Fixed Wing


  • Passenger Capacity
  • Range
    700 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    340 mph
  • Powerplant Type
  • Power Source
  • Endurance
  • Max Altitude
    25,000 ft
  • Takeoff Distance
    2,200 ft
  • Landing Distance
    2,500 ft
  • Empty Weight
    11,500 lb
  • Payload Weight
    2,500 lb


  • Length
    42 ft
  • Width
  • Height
    18 ft
  • Wingspan
    52 ft

Zunum was supposed to make a first flight before the end of 2019 and enter service in 2022, but that seemed doubtful as of August 2019.

The fixed-wing, hybrid electric aircraft is initially being designed to fly up to around 700 miles. As battery technology advances, by around 2030, Zunum Aero expects to be able to stretch range beyond 1,000 miles.

The aircraft has a pair of electric motors driving what appears to be turbofans fitted on the side of the rear fuselage just in front of a V-tail. Initially, in the hybrid phase of the program, power for these motors, via a 500 kW turbogenerator, will originate from an Ardiden 3 turboshaft engine provide by Safran Helicopter Engines under an agreement reached in 2018. This powertrain configuration can generate 1 MW of power.

Zunum Aero appears to envisage three main applications: regional airline service (12 passengers), "first-class" premium service (nine passengers) and executive/VIP (six passengers). The company predicts it will be able to deliver operating costs of just 8 cents per seat-mile, or $250 per flight hour.