Former Airbus CEO Tom Enders has joined the board of eVTOL aircraft developer Lilium. The German aviation executive and former paratrooper spent two decades with Airbus, serving as chief executive from 2007 to 2019.
Announcing the appointment on January 12, Lilium said Enders’s role “will involve decision making which influences the ongoing growth in the business.” So far, the company has raised $375 million in capital, and, according to some estimates, is now worth in excess of $1 billion.
In a blog published on Lilium’s website, Enders argued that the time is right for eVTOL aircraft to be brought into commercial service. “Only now are all the conditions in place to turn this long-held vision into a technical and economic reality: battery technology, digitization, high-performance computers and artificial intelligence, high-precision navigation, advanced materials, and miniaturization, to name just the most important developments,” he said. “In short, the time is right for electric air taxis: emissions-free and low-noise flight over distances of several hundred kilometers.”
According to Enders, who is an experienced helicopter pilot and skydiver, Lilium is right to focus on intercity shuttle flights, rather than shorter intra-urban rides. “I believe with this Lilium is solving the problem of notoriously low load factors in on-demand air taxi businesses of the past,” he commented. “It will also help to get ticket prices down and truly democratize electric flight.”
Lilium aims to have its five-seat, all-electric Lilium Jet certified under European and U.S. Part 23 rules by the end of 2024 and ready to begin commercial operations in 2025. In November 2020, the company announced a partnership with Tavistock Development Company and the city of Orlando to develop the first in a network of vertiports across Florida at the Lake Nona residential development.
Lilium was founded in 2015 by four German engineering students, Daniel Wiegand, Sebastian Born, Patrick Nathen, and Matthias Meiner. In addition to CEO Daniel Wiegand, the other board members include Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom, technology investor Frank Thelen and David Wallerstein, who is chief exploration officer with venture capital group Tencent. The company's management team also includes chief operating officer Remo Gerber, chief financial officer Geoffrey Richardson, and chief technology officer Alastair McIntosh.
The 60-year-old Enders left Airbus in April 2019 after opting not to seek an extension to his mandate. That decision was confirmed in late 2017 following a difficult period for the European aerospace group, which faced corruption investigations into several civil and military transactions. These cases were resolved in January 2020 when Airbus agreed on a series of financial settlements with French, British, and U.S. authorities.