Archer says it expects to achieve the first full transition from hover to cruise flight with its Maker eVTOL technology demonstrator during the second half of 2022. In a March 14 letter to shareholders, the company reported that it is building a second example of the subscale two-seat Maker that should be ready for flight testing by year-end, by which time it aims to also have secured an FAA G-2 issue paper establishing the type certification means of compliance for its four-passenger production aircraft.
According to the latest program timeline, Archer will unveil the production aircraft in 2023, when it expects to also fully validate its powertrain system and launch the application that passengers will use to book flights. Type certification is still anticipated for 2024, and the company is aiming to have its Part 135 operator’s certificate in hand by then.
On Dec. 16, 2021, Archer achieved the first untethered hover flight with the Maker aircraft, after the FAA issued a special airworthiness certificate. The company told shareholders that this exercise met all performance expectations in terms of validating the control system, the aerodynamic model in hover, and vibration data. The performance of vehicle dynamics and power draw control system was as expected, as were the vibe environment and sound characteristics.
Archer’s update did not state whether further hover testing has been conducted since December. It did report that it successfully completed wind tunnel tests on the aircraft’s forward and aft propulsion units and also that it has been working with production partner Stellantis to conduct acoustic testing to evaluate noise levels inside and outside the cabin.
In October 2021, Archer’s engineering team completed a conceptual design review for the production aircraft. The company says that most of its resources are now focused on completing the preliminary design phase that covers final design requirements, system and subsystem architecture design, integration of these systems through a 3D aircraft layout, and finalizing predictive performance models for the production aircraft. Beyond the preliminary design review will come the critical design review, which confirms the detailed design of the production aircraft for the purposes of low rate initial production and the production readiness review.
Meanwhile, the company has drawn up a short list of possible locations for its planned production facility from an initial field of 200 candidates. It expects to start construction in the chosen location during 2022, and is relocating its headquarters to larger premises in North San Jose, California, having outgrown its Palo Alto facility.
At the end of the 2021 financial year, Archer reported that it held $746.9 million in cash, having incurred operating expenses of $358 million and a net loss of $348 million. The company claimed to be one of the best-capitalized eVTOL aircraft developers, citing “potential sources of capital” that would include anticipated revenues from the conditional orders placed last year by United Airlines, which Archer values at up to $1.5 billion.