The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Joby eVTOL Prototype Aircraft Has Accident During Flight Testing

Joby Aviation says one of its two eVTOL aircraft prototypes has had an accident during flight testing in California. In an 8K filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on February 16, when the accident happened, the company said that no injuries resulted from the incident but did not provide any details as to the extent to which the all-electric vehicle was damaged.

“Safety is a core value for Joby, which is why we have been expanding our flight envelope with a remote pilot and in an uninhabited area, especially as we operate outside expected operating conditions,” the company said in its statement. “Experimental flight test programs are intentionally designed to determine the limits of aircraft performance, and accidents are unfortunately a possibility. We will be supporting the relevant authorities in investigating the accident thoroughly.

At the FAA's Aviation Safety Analysis and Sharing site, the accident is recorded as having involved a Joby aircraft with the tail number N542AJ, which was assigned to the company's first preproduction prototype. The record shows that it "crashed during a test flight" at Jolson, California, and late on February 17 the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that it is investigating the accident.

According to the flight tracking platform ADSB Exchange, the aircraft was flying circuits at an altitude of around 1,200 feet, at times reaching exceptional speeds of as high as 240 kts (276 mph). Joby declined to provide any further details about the incident.

Joby's eVTOL four-passenger aircraft is expected to be certified and ready to enter service in 2024. It is expected to have a range of 150 miles and a top speed of 200 mph.

In January, Joby added a second preproduction example of its four-passenger eVTOL aircraft as it steps up a flight test program expected to lead to type certification and the launch of air taxi services in 2024. The California-based company announced that in late December both the FAA and the U.S Air Force issued airworthiness approval for the second aircraft to begin flight operations.

The second prototype was expected to start flight tests as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program to evaluate the use of eVTOL aircraft for military missions. The aircraft is expected to have a range of 150 miles and a top speed of 200 mph when certified.

Joby has not said which of its two prototypes was involved in the accident or whether flight testing will be suspended while the accident is investigated. At the end of January, the company confirmed it is planning to conduct public demonstration flights in the San Francisco Bay area.

Over the past couple of years, much of Joby’s flight testing has been conducted near Jolon in California's Monterey county. The company has not disclosed exactly when the accident occurred but did confirm that it happened at its remote test base.

This article was updated on February 18 to correct information about the location for Joby's eVTOL flight testing.