German electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturer Lilium will eventually begin working with airlines, brokers, and charter operators to launch passenger-ferrying air taxi routes. But first it has another customer in mind: multimillionaires.
Lilium on Wednesday announced a partnership with Houston-based EMCJET, a full-service aircraft brokerage and management firm, to sell its first edition eVTOL—billed at a hefty $10 million—to individuals in the U.S. The company said its Jet Pioneer Edition will be the first aircraft of its kind available for private sale on the U.S. market.
Aimed at wealthy buyers, the Pioneer Edition is the planned launch edition of the firm’s seven-seat Lilium Jet and will be sold to GA and business aviation operators around the world. Only 50 units will be built and delivered, according to a Lilium shareholder presentation in June. In August, the manufacturer unveiled the aircraft’s cabin design, which features a club-four seating configuration.
According to Matthew Broffman, head of Lilium partnerships and network for the Americas, the rollout of the Pioneer Edition is a key part of the company’s long-term path to market.
“Disruptions in products, and specifically transportation, are best done when starting with the premium market,” Broffman told FLYING. “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.”
Broffman continued: “Likewise, Lilium plans to sell our Pioneer Edition to a premium segment, offering an amazing experience for customers to experience the future of regional air mobility. A few years later, we plan to introduce our shuttle (6-passenger) version for airlines to operate across the globe.”
Broffman told FLYING that owners will not fly the aircraft themselves. Rather, EMCJET will provide pilots as part of its management service. Personal pilots who have received the proper FAA training and certification will also be eligible to fly them.
“EMCJET has a proven track record of safely managing privately owned aircraft under Part 91 operations and achieving high customer service levels,” Broffman said. “It has industry-leading expertise and experience selling and acquiring privately owned aircraft.”
Pioneer Edition deliveries to U.S. customers will begin once Lilium receives FAA type certification, which is expected in late 2025 or early 2026.
The Private eVTOL Market
Under the agreement, EMCJET becomes Lilium’s exclusive dealer for private sales to the Texas market through 2030. The partnership also includes a commercial commitment for the brokerage to purchase five Pioneer Edition production slots. Once those models are delivered, EMCJET will sell them nationwide, though the initial focus will be on the Texas metropolises of Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
“This partnership with Lilium will allow us to serve our well-established network of aviation enthusiasts with the latest technological advancements and continue to provide exceptional service and results that our clients deserve and depend on,” said Memo Montemayor, founder and CEO of EMCJET.
The American firm is Lilium’s fourth global dealer for the Pioneer Edition. The partnership follows 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.
Technically, there are a few other eVTOL designs available for private sale in the U.S. Palo Alto, California-based Pivotal, a personal eVTOL manufacturer, has already sold and delivered a half dozen Blackfly preproduction aircraft to U.S. customers. But the model is not yet widely available.
So-called “drive-and-fly” eVTOL manufacturers such as Alef Aeronautics, Aska, and Samson Sky, meanwhile, have each accepted preorder deposits or early reservations for their flying cars. However, these designs are geared more toward short, recreational flights and are intended for only one or two passengers. Lilium’s design, with four seats and a range of about 155 sm (135 nm), could be used for corporate transport, for example.
So, while one could argue that the Pioneer Edition is not the “first” eVTOL design on the U.S. market, it’s the only available model not designed purely for recreational use.
Path to Market
Lilium said the partnership with EMCJET represents the first step in unlocking the U.S. private aviation market, the largest in the world. While competitors such as Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation look to launch eVTOL air taxi routes from the get go, the German firm’s strategy is instead to focus on “premium” customers before rolling out Lilium Jet commercially in 2026.
“Lilium’s dealership model is part of our progressive and realistic approach to regional air mobility, where Lilium starts in the premium space and then expands to sales for scheduled shuttle service,” said Broffman.
The full-scale model, designed for a pilot and six passengers, will ferry passengers between towns and inner cities, traveling between 25 and 125 miles (21 and 108 nm) at up to 186 mph (161 knots). Its fixed-wing design features 36 small electric ducted fans embedded in the wings, setting it apart from the common tiltrotor thrust architecture used by rivals.
The use of ducted fans sacrifices some hover efficiency but gives the aircraft significantly more efficiency during cruise, in which it’s expected to spend around 95 percent of its mission time. The fans also reduce noise to a whisper (literally—the aircraft’s projected 20 dba noise level at cruise altitude is equivalent to hushed conversation).
Lilium so far is the only eVTOL manufacturer to have obtained certification bases from both the FAA and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The firm’s goal is to complete concurrent certification with both regulators so it can produce a single aircraft design for global operations.
The manufacturer received its certification basis from the European regulator in 2020, adding FAA criteria in June. It expects to obtain EASA type certification for Lilium Jet in 2025 and will leverage the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement between the U.S. and E.U. in hopes of gaining FAA approval by 2026, though the agreement provides no guarantee of approval or timing, even for traditional aircraft. Deliveries will begin soon after.
In the U.S., Lilium is partnered with Tavistock Development Company and the city of Orlando, Florida, to build a 56,000-square-foot vertiport in the Lake Nona Aerotropolis planned community. Columbus, Ohio-based fractional aircraft ownership company NetJets, which in 2022 agreed to purchase 150 Lilium Jets, will operate Florida air taxi routes from the facility, with plans to fly passengers as far as Miami (about 185 sm away).
Houston-based Bristow Group—which could purchase up to 50 air taxis—will provide maintenance services for Lilium in Florida and other markets. The eVTOL manufacturer also has an agreement with FlightSafety International, which will train pilots to fly Lilium Jet in Florida and elsewhere.
“Multiple U.S. operators remain extremely interested in Florida, and we think it makes a great entry market for a Lilium operator,” said Broffman.
Outside the U.S., Lilium’s largest agreement is with Brazil’s Azul. A billion-dollar deal signed in 2021 calls for it to deliver 220 of its Jets to the South American airline, which will operate and maintain the fleet. The company 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.
Those services could come online in just a few years, if all goes according to plan. But first Lilium will whet its appetite by selling to wealthy customers in the U.S., U.K., and mainland Europe.