German electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi developer Lilium is steadily clearing obstructions on its runway to achieve type certification.
The manufacturer of the six-passenger Lilium Jet on Monday announced it received Design Organization Approval (DOA) from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), its primary regulatory authority. DOA is a required step in the type certification process for companies developing EASA Part 21 commercial aircraft.
The Lilium Jet is expected to enter that class through a certification basis awarded by EASA in 2020, under the regulator’s special condition for vertical takeoff and landing (SC-VTOL) rules. The fixed-wing design is powered by small, electric ducted fans embedded in the wings, contrasting with the “tiltrotor” thrust architecture common among U.S. competitors.
Initially, the Jet will fly regional air mobility routes, ferrying passengers between towns and inner cities on 25 to 125 sm (22 to 109 nm) trips. Eventually, Lilium envisions flights beyond 300 sm (260 nm). The air taxi will cruise at 162 knots at about 10,000 feet, the altitude at which helicopters typically fly.
“While we join a small, select group of companies qualified to develop commercial aircraft, [Monday’s] announcement is especially significant for the global aviation industry as we are doing so by advancing sustainable regional air mobility,” said Klaus Roewe, CEO of Lilium. “I would like to thank our counterparts at EASA for their professional cooperation, which I believe will continue to be very beneficial for the industry moving forward.”
DOA marks the German firm’s next step toward proving its air taxi can fly safely in shared airspace. The award establishes that a manufacturer is qualified to design and hold a type certificate for aircraft developed under the SC-VTOL rules. Those requirements are designed to enable safe market entry globally and have been adopted by other regulators, including the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Lilium’s DOA confirms that the company’s capabilities meet the safety and regulatory standards required to produce commercial aircraft fit for European airspace. It caps off a qualification process that began back in 2017.
“In simple terms, the DOA is our License to Operate and confirms that Lilium has the organization, procedures, competencies, resources, and demonstrated rigor required to design and certify aircraft according to the very highest safety standards,” said Alastair McIntosh, chief technology officer and head of design organization at Lilium.
In a statement congratulating Lilium, Luc Tytgat, acting executive director of EASA, said: “EASA is ensuring that everything is in place for the societal acceptance of urban air mobility. We are setting the right rules for operations and taking care of the environmental elements including noise, while, of course, ensuring that high safety standards are met. At the same time, we are wary of creating barriers to entering this new market, and we have worked in partnership with Lilium against a demanding timeline.”
The award builds on the German firm’s recent progress toward certifying the Lilium Jet in Europe. In September, it began assembling the first fuselage for a type-conforming Jet prototype, which it will use for flight testing with EASA. The prototype’s first manned flights are expected in late 2024, with type certification following in late 2025.
According to a company update in July, about 80 percent of Lilium’s means of compliance proposal—which outlines how the manufacturer will adhere to the requirements laid out in its certification basis—has been approved by EASA.
Progress on Multiple Fronts
Simultaneously, Lilium is working to certify its air taxi with the FAA. In June, it became the first eVTOL manufacturer to obtain certification bases from both EASA and the American regulator. The company said its DOA should aid its progress on both sides of the Atlantic.
“In addition to European oversight, EASA’s DOA brings significant benefits to our FAA certification process in the U.S. by utilizing the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements to validate the technology and aircraft,” said Bhavesh Mandalia, chief airworthiness officer and deputy CTO of Lilium.
Last month, the German firm laid the groundwork for unlocking the U.S. market with the start of private sales of its Pioneer Edition Jet, the four-seat launch edition of its flagship, seven-seat model.
Working with EMCJET, a full-service aircraft brokerage and management firm based in Houston, Lilium will sell the Pioneer Edition—billed at a hefty $10 million—to “premium” customers in the U.S. Deliveries will begin once FAA type certification is obtained, which is expected in late 2025 or early 2026.
“Disruptions in products, and specifically transportation, are best done when starting with the premium market,” Matthew Broffman, head of Lilium partnerships and network for the Americas, told FLYING in October. “In the 1930s, it cost half the price of a car to purchase a ticket to fly from coast to coast. Tesla didn’t launch with the Model 3, but instead the $100,000 Roadster, and even the first refrigerator cost more than $10,000 in today’s dollars.”
EMCJET, which intends to sell the Pioneer Edition nationwide beginning with the Texas metropolises of Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, was Lilium’s fourth exclusive dealer for private sales.
The partnership followed agreements with eVolare in the U.K., Air-Dynamic in Switzerland and Italy, and ASL Group in Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Germany. Combined, the three firms have committed to order 31 aircraft. Earlier this month, Lilium added a fifth global dealer, Dubai-based ArcosJet, to open Pioneer Edition sales to the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Cyprus.
A total of 50 Pioneer Editions will be built and delivered, according to a company shareholder presentation in June.
In addition to Europe, Lilium plans to launch commercial air taxi services in the U.S. with the help of several partners.
It’s working with Tavistock Development Company and the city of Orlando, Florida, to build a 56,000-square-foot vertiport within the Lake Nona Aerotropolis, a master-planned community with direct access to Orlando International Airport (KMCO). Fractional aircraft ownership company NetJets, which agreed to purchase up to 150 Lilium Jets in 2022, will operate air taxi routes out of the facility and plans to ferry passengers as far as Miami (about 185 sm away).
Houston-based helicopter operator Bristow Group—which may purchase up to 50 air taxis itself—will provide maintenance services in Florida and other Lilium markets, while FlightSafety International will train pilots to fly the aircraft.
“Multiple U.S. operators remain extremely interested in Florida, and we think it makes a great entry market for a Lilium operator,” Broffman told FLYING in October.
Outside the U.S., the manufacturer’s largest agreement is with Brazil’s Azul for the delivery of 220 Jets. It also has 100 aircraft orders apiece from Saudi Arabia national airline Saudia and Chinese helicopter operator Heli-Eastern, with plans to establish a footprint in both countries.
On Friday, the firm agreed to build an eVTOL network across China in partnership with Citic Offshore Helicopter Co., beginning with the country’s Greater Bay Area.