FAA Clears Archer Aviation for First Flight

The FAA has inspected Archer Aviation’s prototype electric air taxi program, authorizing a special airworthiness certificate, clearing the way for its first hover test flight.

Archer Aviation’s Maker eVTOL aircraft sits at the test facility in California. [Courtesy: Archer Aviation]

FAA representatives have inspected Archer Aviation’s (NYSE:ACHR) prototype air taxi program, the eVTOL maker said Thursday, clearing the way for its first hover test flight. 

Archer said its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, dubbed Maker, received a special airworthiness certificate after a formal inspection by the FAA at the company’s flight test facility in California. More commonly known as an experimental certificate—it officially authorizes Archer to begin flight testing.

The inspection included a comprehensive review of Maker to confirm Archer has followed FAA regulatory guidance, and the aircraft is ready for the initial flight portion of its testing program, Archer said. The certificate and inspection represent the final threshold to begin those flight-test operations. 

“We’ve demonstrated the quality and viability of our eVTOL aircraft while maintaining our commitment to safety above all else, and we now turn our focus toward the first flight tests of Maker,” said Adam Goldstein, Archer co-founder and co-CEO, in a release.

Final Preparations

Maker’s design includes a V-tail and a 12-tilt-6 rotor/propeller configuration that allows it to hover like a helicopter and fly horizontally like an airplane. Powered by an array of lithium-ion batteries, Maker is built for short, environmentally friendly hops over traffic congested urban areas. 

Archer has been saying for months it plans to conduct its first hover flight test before the end of this year. The aircraft is now undergoing final preparations.

At the test facility, engineers have been working to integrate all necessary technology into the test aircraft, including battery packs, avionics, motors, sensors, and software. They plan to conduct a final series of critical integrated tests ahead of the first hover flight, Goldstein said. 

Archer comes to the competitive eVTOL arena with the backing of United Airlines, which has made a provisional agreement to buy $1 billion in Archer eVTOLs, with an option to purchase more. Archer not only plans to manufacture its new aircraft, but it also intends to operate an air taxi service. It’s seriously considering the Los Angeles area as one of its first markets. 

Archer has made significant progress toward FAA type certification for the production version of its aircraft. It received its FAA G-1 Certification Basis in September. During its quarterly earnings report in November, Archer said Maker is on track to enter service in 2024. 

One of Archer’s competitors, Joby Aviation, has been flying a prototype of its eVTOL air taxi since 2018. Joby, which is backed by Uber, also plans to enter service in 2024. 

Archer's V-tailed air taxi includes 12 rotors, including six that tilt to propel the aircraft forward like an airplane. Credit: Archer Aviation
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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