The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

FAA Approves Joby's Certification Plan for eVTOL Propulsion System

The FAA has accepted Joby Aviation’s certification plan for the electric propulsion system on its eVTOL aircraft, notching another milestone on the path to commercialization, the company announced on February 9. The California-based eVTOL developer finished submitting all of its certification plans to the FAA in July 2023. 

According to Joby, the newly accepted certification plan covers the aircraft’s electric propulsion unit—including motors, gearboxes, nacelles, coolant pumps, and electrical wiring—as well as the propeller system and variable pitch actuators. The five-seat air taxi uses a distributed electric propulsion system that the company developed as part of its earlier work with NASA. It features six propellers powered by independent electric propulsion units, with four on its wing and the other two on the tail.

“We now have an approved path across our certification program for all of the structural, mechanical, and electrical systems of our aircraft,” said Joby’s president of aircraft OEM Didier Papadopoulos. “This sets the stage for our team to execute against that path with a well-defined approach to for-credit testing and analysis as we continue to lead the industry towards certifying an electric air taxi with the FAA.”

Joby says it is close to finishing the third of five stages in its type certification process and has already gotten a head start on the fourth stage, during which the company will conduct thousands of tests and inspections in accordance with the certification plans agreed upon in stage three. According to Joby, it has already completed 30 “for-credit” tests with the FAA. 

For the fifth and final stage of Joby’s type certification process, the FAA will analyze and verify results from stage four testing. If all goes well, Joby will then obtain its type certificate sometime before the end of this year, with commercial air taxi operations launching in 2025. 

On February 7, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that component failure resulting in the separation of a propeller as the probable cause of the February 16, 2022, accident in which one of Joby Aviation’s eVTOL prototypes crashed during testing in a rural area of California. The agency’s final report determined that the blade separation caused, “cascading effects to include the separation of multiple propulsion motor/propeller assemblies and the loss of remote pilot control of the aircraft.”