Vertical Aerospace: eVTOL Flight Tests to Begin This Summer

The UK-based electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi developer outlined its path to type certification in a new report.

Vertical Aerospace (NYSE: EVTL) plans to begin a test flight program with a full-scale prototype demonstrator of its VX4 electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi this summer.

According to a shareholder letter released Friday, the U.K.-based company, which has already received 1,350 VX4 pre-orders from American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) and others, said its test article “represents the same scale and configuration as the certification aircraft.” The test campaign will “pave the way” for a “final optimized certification-ready aircraft” which is targeted to enter service in 2025.

VX4 is an entirely new type of battery-powered, electric aircraft with the ability to fly horizontally like an airplane and hover like a helicopter. Its design includes tilting proprotors attached to a fixed-wing. The V-tail retract is designed to carry four passengers and a pilot with zero carbon emissions at speeds of about 200 mph (174 kts) with a range of more than 100 sm.

On April 21, Vertical announced it had been approved for concurrent type certification by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). 

Three of Vertical’s major eVTOL competitors, including Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation—based in California—and Beta Technologies in Vermont, are already test flying prototype demonstrators. In the past, Vertical has built and flown two previous full-size demonstrators—a single-seat, ducted fan design in 2018 and a larger, two-seat, multi-rotor eVTOL in 2019. The VX4 will be different from these designs. 

In its letter to shareholders, the company said it has submitted its proposed certification basis to the CAA based on the EASA certification basis called Special Condition for Small-Category Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircraft (SC-VTOL).

“We expect this will be fully agreed with the CAA later in 2022 and expect our certification basis will fully envelope the corresponding sections from the FAA’s Part 23 and 27 standards.” 

Demonstrating that the new aircraft is designed and developed under SC-VTOL standards, will be a key step toward type certification.

Vertical has been developing VX4 in partnership with established partners across the aviation sector, including Rolls-Royce (OTC US: RYCEY) for electric propulsion, Honeywell (NASDAQ: HON) for its avionics and fly-by-wire flight control system, and Leonardo (DXE: LDO.M.DX)  for the aircraft’s fuselage. 

The letter to shareholders also said pre-order bookings are currently valued at $5.4 billion. “We plan to spend between 75 million and 85 million [British pounds] this financial year,” supplementing its capital position with “pre-delivery payments against firm orders, beginning with those from our existing 1,350 pre-orderbook.”


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