American Airlines-backed Air Taxi Inches Closer to Type Certification

American Airlines-backed electric air taxi developer Vertical Aerospace has been approved for concurrent type certification by European and UK aviation regulators.

Vertical Aerospace VX4

VX4, Vertical Aerospace’s 4 passenger, single-pilot eVTOL air taxi is expected to enter service in 2025. [Courtesy: Vertical Aerospace]

American Airlines-backed electric air taxi developer Vertical Aerospace (NYSE: EVTL) has been approved for concurrent type certification by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). 

The London-based company announced the news Thursday, as it works toward launching a full test flight campaign later this year for its VX4 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi. 

Aiming to enter service in 2025, Vertical Aerospace also revealed it has hired former EASA certification director Trevor Woods to help lead the regulatory process.

’Significant Momentum’

Vertical’s “considerable in-house engineering expertise matched with its unrivaled industrial partnerships…lend significant momentum to its certification efforts,” Woods said in a statement. 

The partnerships include GKN, Honeywell, Leonardo, Rolls-Royce, and Honeywell. 

Vertical also announced it received required CAA competency approval for three key managers that will open the door to winning design organization approval (DOA)—the equivalent to the FAA’s organization designation authorization (ODA). 

In fact, the company said it intends to seek FAA type certification as well, that would allow VX4 to enter service in the U.S.

“Vertical’s DOA, when granted, will cover the full scope required to hold a type certificate for a commercial passenger carrying winged eVTOL,” the company said in a statement. “Vertical believes this will be of the widest scope an eVTOL manufacturer will have received to date.” 

The eVTOL developer says it has submitted a certification basis proposal, based on EASA’S established SC-VTOL certification basis. Vertical says it expects to get CAA agreement on the proposal later this year. 

Leading eVTOL developers in the U.S.—including Uber-backed Joby Aviation (NYSE: JOBY) and United Airlines-backed Archer Aviation (NYSE: ACHR) are further ahead of Vertical in their type certification timelines, and are both flight testing demonstrator aircraft. 

About the Aircraft

Vertical is one of hundreds of advanced air mobility startups developing eVTOLs designed to fly passengers and cargo for short distances over traffic gridlocked cities. 

Founded in 2016, the company began flights of its first full-scale battery powered eVTOL test article in 2019. 

The more advanced air taxi prototype demonstrator for VX4 is now in “later build stages” the company says. “We look forward to reaching a number of meaningful milestones in our activity over the coming months, including the launch of our flight test campaign,” said Paul Harper, Vertical’s head of certification, in a statement.

VX4 is a fixed-wing, V-tailed, tilt-rotor, retract aircraft designed to carry four passengers and a pilot with zero carbon emissions at speeds of about 200 mph (174 kts) with a range of more than 100 sm. 

Vertical’s pre-order book includes Virgin Atlantic, in addition to American Airlines and other carriers.  [Courtesy: Vertical Aerospace]

‘Largest Pre-Order Book’

It’s worth noting that Vertical boasts the “largest pre-order book by value in the eVTOL market,” totaling $5.4 billion. 

Including American Airlines, which signed a provisional pre-order in 2021, Vertical says it has received pre-orders for 1,350 aircraft from customers such as Virgin Atlantic, Bristow, Marubeni, Iberojet, and Avolon—the “world’s second largest aircraft lessor.” 

In addition to the U.K. and U.S., the company says eventually VX4 will be flying in Turkey, Japan, Brazil, Greenland, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean, if all goes as planned.  

Thom is a former senior editor for FLYING. Previously, his freelance reporting appeared in aviation industry magazines. Thom also spent three decades as a TV and digital journalist at CNN’s bureaus in Washington and Atlanta, eventually specializing in aviation. He has reported from air shows in Oshkosh, Farnborough and Paris. Follow Thom on Twitter @thompatterson.

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