In a statement the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said, it had “shifted course on its approach to approving pilots of future electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL)”, but does not expect delays in certification or operational approvals.
eVTOL aircraft have been touted as air taxis and are seen as potentially being the future of urban air mobility. The low-altitude urban air mobility aircraft has drawn a huge amount of interest around the world as numerous eVTOL companies have gone public.
In a statement the FAA said, it would pursue “a predictable framework that will better accommodate the need to train and certify the pilots who will operate these novel aircraft. The flexibility will eliminate the need for special conditions and exemptions”.
It was modifying its regulatory approach since they were previously designed for traditional airplanes and helicopters and “did not anticipate the need to train pilots to operate powered-lift, which take off in helicopter mode, transition into airplane mode for flying, and then transition back to helicopter mode for landing.”
According to Pete Bunce, who heads the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the FAA decision is “in our minds detrimental to safety, and increases the workload on the FAA dramatically. This is bad policy for so many reasons.”
Many eVTOL startups have the backing of major airlines or big companies.
Case in point: Joby Aviation is backed by Toyota Motor Corp, Archer Aviation has the backing of United Airlines and Stellantis NV while Vertical Aerospace is backed by the American Airlines Group Inc and Honeywell International Inc.
Joby aims to launch its aerial ridesharing service in 2024.
The process “for certifying the aircraft themselves remains unchanged. All of the development work done by current applicants remains valid and the changes in our regulatory approach should not delay their projects,” said the FAA.
The FAA had briefed the US Congress on this issue on April 29, and in March the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General had said it would review the basis for certification of eVTOLs.