On The Radar
Assessments of the task facing companies seeking type certification for eVTOL aircraft seem to sit at both ends of a wide spectrum. They either make it appear like a steep mountain to climb with near-insurmountable obstacles on the ascent or a proverbial walk in the park on a fast track towards achieving revenue flights in record time.
The truth is almost certainly somewhere between these two points, but the technological leap being made towards radically new propulsion systems, airframe architectures, and approaching autonomous flight operations makes the mission hard to gauge and comprehend. So, too, does the lingering uncertainty over the regulatory framework for these new designs.
Many eVTOL start-ups have been reluctant to let prying eyes get too close to their efforts to secure type certification and to navigate the other key milestones on the road to service entry. But lately, the shutters do appear to be lifting at some companies, perhaps as they realize that they will need to build credibility to get a complex array of stakeholders on board for advanced air mobility in all its forms to win public acceptance.
Hats off, then, to Lilium for a blog published today by chief program officer Yves Yemsi and head of airworthiness Bhavesh Mandalia. Entitled The path to certification of the 7-seater Lilium jet, it offers detailed and systematic insights into the process the German company is following, with a useful breakdown of the requirements that apply to other new market entrants.
One of the blog’s key takeaways is that the certification of eVTOL aircraft isn’t happening in some sort of mysterious silo, completely divorced from mainstream aviation standards and established protocols. On the contrary, the authors explain, makers of these new models fully accept the need to demonstrate that their aircraft will meet all “airliner-grade” safety standards so that passengers can feel as comfortable boarding for a taxi hop across town as they are today in whatever generic Airbus or Boeing tube-with-wings pulls up to the airport gate.
The report offers a helpful point of reference for those following this fascinating but often baffling new wave of aviation.
Mandalia started his career with Europe's Joint Aviation Authorities, which subsequently became EASA, before working with an aircraft design organization in Australia and then leading Boeing's certification and design organization work in the UK and Ireland. Yemsi is an Airbus veteran, having most recently served as head of quality for the A350XWB widebody airliner.