Joby Aviation is set to roll out the first electric air taxi assembled at its pilot production line in Marina, California. Ahead of the big reveal on Wednesday, the company announced that it received a special airworthiness certificate from the FAA, clearing the so-called “production prototype” for its first flight tests.
The California-based eVTOL manufacturer is unveiling the first production-conforming example of its air taxi prototype during a special event held jointly with Toyota, its manufacturing partner and biggest investor, at the production facility in Marina. Joby also announced on Wednesday that it has appointed Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa, president and CEO of Toyota Motor North America, to its board of directors.
Toyota has helped Joby design and build its pilot production line, and the car maker will continue to play a major role in the production and assembly of Joby’s piloted, four-passenger eVTOL air taxi. Joby says it is still looking to choose a location for its large-scale Phase 1 production facility, which it will build with the help of Toyota’s manufacturing expertise.
Joby’s newly revealed production prototype will be the first of up to nine aircraft that the company will deliver to the U.S. Air Force as part of its Agility Prime contract, which is worth up to $131 million. The first two deliveries are expected in early 2024 at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. When the first aircraft arrives, it will represent the first-ever delivery of any eVTOL aircraft to a paying customer.
A Joby spokesperson told FutureFlight that the company expects to build “several company-conforming aircraft at progressive levels of maturity before building an FAA-conforming aircraft,” which it will use for certification testing. “Tweaks and improvements may occur with subsequent aircraft off the line as we learn and mature our processes, but this is the design that we will certify,” the spokesperson said.
Joby expects to have its eVTOL aircraft type certified by 2024, and the company plans to launch and operate an air taxi service in the U.S. by 2025. In February, the company announced it had completed the second of five stages in the FAA type certification process with the completion of its means of compliance, a document that details how it will comply with the safety rules defined in its certification basis.
While Joby’s aircraft is not yet certified, the company says its production prototype was “manufactured in accordance with a released design and built according to a complete implementation of a quality management system — an important step on the path to achieving the FAA type certification required to begin commercial passenger operations.”
According to Joby, the quality management system includes tracking and documentation of all aircraft components, management of engineering drawings and environmental conditions during fabrication, and a log of actions taken by manufacturing technicians. The company says the FAA regularly reviews this system as part of Joby’s work toward obtaining a production certificate, following type certification of the aircraft. Previously Joby has referred to this production prototype as a “company-conforming” aircraft.
Joby says it has logged more than 30,000 miles in flight tests with its earlier pre-production prototypes since 2019. The company flew its first full-scale technology demonstrator in 2017.