Vertical Aerospace has achieved a first tethered takeoff with its VX4 eVTOL prototype aircraft, with the company reporting on Monday that the flight happened on Saturday. The UK-based start-up provided few details about the flight, beyond confirming that chief test pilot Justin Paines had been at the controls and that the vehicle had hovered at around one meter above the ground for 10 minutes.
Since the flight was piloted, it required a “Permit to Fly” issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. According to Vertical Aerospace, it is the first British company to start flight tests with a new aircraft in more than 20 years. The Bristol-based manufacturer said that the flight took place inside a hangar at Kemble Airport in the west of England, where it intends to conduct initial flight testing.
In its September 26 statement, Vertical said “it is hoped” the four-passenger eVTOL vehicle will achieve type certification in 2025. This appears to suggest some caution over committing to a timeline that—as recently as April when Vertical provided an update on the certification program—referred to the aircraft achieving first deliveries and entry into service in 2025. The company had previously indicated that its concurrent UK and EASA type certification would be completed in 2024.
In a written statement, Vertical Aerospace told FutureFlight that the anticipated timing for type certification has not changed. "We are not commenting on specific future timings at this early stage," a spokeswoman said.
Over the coming months, Vertical says, the first VX4 prototype will fly at increasingly higher altitudes and speeds before demonstrating the critical transition from vertical to horizontal flight. The all-electric aircraft, which has eight sets of tilting propellers, is expected to fly sectors of up to 100 miles, cruising at 150 mph and with a top speed of 200 mph.
Vertical says that it now holds conditional preorders for more than 1,400 of the aircraft, with prospective customers including major airlines, such as American Airlines (which has made prepayments for its first 50 deliveries), Virgin Atlantic Airways, Japan Airlines, and Air Asia. Virgin plans to conduct two operational test flights with the VX4 in the spring of 2024 on trips from London Heathrow and Bristol airports.
“This test represented the culmination of many months of preparation by a huge team and being at the controls of the VX4 for the first time was an honor and a proud moment for us all,” said Paines.
Major program partners for the VX4 include avionics group Honeywell Aerospace, aerostructures specialist GKN, and aircraft engines maker Rolls-Royce.