Joby Aviation eVTOL Test Aircraft Crashes

A Joby Aviation experimental air-taxi prototype test article has been involved in an accident at its flight test facility in rural California, the company said Thursday.

Joby says one of its two eVTOL test articles was involved in an accident Wednesday at its remote California test facility. [Courtesy: Joby Aviation]

A Joby Aviation (NYSE:JOBY) experimental air taxi prototype test article went down during a test flight near its facility in rural California, according to an FAA report filed Thursday.

There were no injuries related to Wednesday’s accident, Joby said in a required document filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. The electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft was remotely piloted at the time, according to the filing. 

Accidents are an unfortunate part of the rigorous flight-test process necessary to develop any new aircraft type. Joby—one of the leading developers seeking to build environmentally friendly, battery-powered air taxis—has been flying full-sized prototypes since 2017. On Thursday, the company declined to offer any additional details about the accident outside its SEC filing. 

“Experimental flight test programs are intentionally designed to determine the limits of aircraft performance, and accidents are unfortunately a possibility,” Joby said in the filing. “We will be supporting the relevant authorities in investigating the accident thoroughly.”

Joby has been in the midst of an accelerated campaign intended to expand its flight-test envelope to reach design expectations for speed, range, altitude, and other parameters. 

“Safety is a core value for Joby, which is why we have been expanding our flight envelope with a remote pilot and in an uninhabited area, especially as we operate outside expected operating conditions,” Joby said in the filing. 

According to an FAA accident/incident report filed Thursday, the aircraft, registered as N542AJ, “crashed during test flight.” The report offered no details about how much damage the eVTOL sustained. N542AJ is the older test article of Joby’s two-aircraft test fleet. An FAA spokeswoman confirmed to FLYING an investigation is under way.

The  company’s second test article—a newer and similar version of N542AJ—recently joined the test fleet after being certificated for experimental flights by the FAA and the U.S. Air Force, as part of Joby’s contract with the military’s Agility Prime program. It’s not clear if the second test article has actually begun flight tests, although Joby told FLYING in late January the new aircraft was expected to begin test flights soon.

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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