Archer’s Midnight eVTOL Completes First Transition Flight

Midnight achieved speeds greater than 100 mph on the remotely controlled flight before reverting to vertical mode for landing.

Archer’s Midnight aircraft flying at 100+ mph during transition flight. [Courtesy: Archer Aviation]

Archer Aviation announced Wednesday it completed the first successful transition flight of its Midnight electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft on June 8.

In transitioning from vertical takeoff mode to wing-borne flight, the six front-facing electric motors tilt forward as it picks up speed to power the aircraft like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft. As shown in a company video, the Midnight achieved speeds of greater than 100 mph on the remotely controlled flight. It then reverted to vertical mode for landing.

“For the first full transition flight, we chose to keep the aft propellers spinning at very low speeds (200-300 rpm) rather than initiating the ‘stow routine’ to stop them," Archer told AVweb when asked about the configuration of the six aft rotors. "Envelope expansion is a step-by-step process. In future flights we will exercise this functionality. You can think of this as being analogous to how, for conventional aircraft, the landing gear may not be retracted on a first flight. All of the lift was generated by the wing at the speeds we were flying (100-plus mph).”

At a design max takeoff weight of 6,500 pounds with a 1,000-pound payload, the Midnight is among the largest eVTOLs to achieve transition flight, according to Santa Clara, California-based Archer. The company recognizes the milestone as “critical to being able to carry commercially viable passenger payloads.” Archer did not immediately answer AVweb’s inquiry about how much payload was on board for the unmanned June 8 test flight.

The Midnight is the second of Archer’s full-scale eVTOL models to establish successful transition flight. The manufacturer did so in November 2022, 11 months after its first flight. The aircraft still flies regularly as part of Archer’s flight-test program.

“Over the seven eVTOL aircraft I’ve built and flown in my career, they have gotten progressively larger as we pursued payloads that made the aircraft platform commercially viable,” said Archer chief engineer Geoff Bower.

Said Archer founder and CEO Adam Goldstein: “Transitioning two generations of full-scale eVTOL aircraft in less than two years is another remarkable achievement for Archer’s team. This shows we continue to successfully execute against our plan to create the most efficient path to market with an aircraft that is designed for certification and to be manufactured efficiently at scale.”

According to Archer, the Midnight is in the final “implementation” phase of FAA type certification. Piloted flight testing is on track to begin later this year.

The long-term goal of the Midnight is to replace 60- to 90-minute automobile commutes in populated areas with 10- to 20-minute air taxi trips. The flights are meant to be “safe, sustainable, low-noise, and cost-competitive with ground transportation.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on AVweb.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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