Joby Aviation, developer of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has pushed back the timeline for its vehicle’s entry into commercial passenger service to 2025.
JoeBen Bevirt, CEO and founder of the California-based company, said Nov. 2 that the change had both regulatory and internal company reasons. Previously, it was targeting a 2024 launch.
New certification standards need to be drafted after the FAA changed its requirements for advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft earlier this year, he said during the company’s quarterly earnings call.
He expects draft air taxi guidelines to be ready “in the coming months, and this will increase the [timeline] certainty”. The final rules are not expected before the end of 2024.
The FAA had said in May that it now intends to certify eVTOLs in a “special class” category rather than those that apply to small transport aircraft under its Part 23 rules. that the FAA will use applicable Part 23 standards supplemented by other rules, such as those applicable to helicopters.
“We also have internal parts that we rely on in order to deliver type certification,” he adds. “Our ambition is to launch a commercial passenger service in 2025.”
“We’re building a next-generation aviation company, and it’s hard work, but it’s going to pay huge dividends as we work through the certification process and for many years to come,” Bevirt said.
Executives are optimistic about the company’s new certification schedule as flight testing has made “great progress”.
“We continue to generate significant amounts of data on the performance of our aircraft, routinely flying several hours a day on numerous flights,” the company says in its letter to shareholders.
Joby has flown ‘more than 10,000 nautical miles’ with his pre-production prototype since 2019. In October he logged more flight hours than in any previous month, he adds .
“This flight data is critical to tuning our test facilities and ensuring our production aircraft is optimized to meet certification and program goals.”
Joby is developing a single-pilot electric air taxi capable of carrying four passengers on flights up to 130 nm (241 km) and at speeds of up to 174 kt (322 km/h). He considers the aircraft suitable for transporting passengers on flights over congested cities.
But before civilian certification, Joby plans to begin operating under a plan with the US Department of Defense (DOD) in 2024.
On August 10, Joby announced that it was expanding a partnership with the DOD to the tune of $45 million, bringing its defense-related business to a total of $75 million. Joby works through the US Air Force’s Agility Prime program, as well as with the US Marine Corps, which the company said at the time will participate in government-run test flights.
Possible military applications for eVTOL aircraft include resupply, personnel relocation, and emergency medical response applications.
The collaboration will give Joby a “significant opportunity to learn about aircraft operations in a real-world environment,” Bevirt said.
Joby’s president, Paul Sciarra, adds that this cooperation could still expand in the years to come.
“We believe there are opportunities to expand to the other [military] branches over time,” he says. These opportunities could take the form of either an entrepreneur owned and operated model or an acquisition type model.
“We don’t know yet which direction it will go,” he adds. “Both are viable, but they can also be different for different branches.”
At the end of the third quarter of 2022, the air taxi developer said it had $1.1 billion in cash and short-term investments to support its operations.
Net cash used in operating activities and purchases of property, plant and equipment totaled $207 million in the first nine months of 2022, including $74 million spent in the third quarter. The company recorded a loss of $79.2 million during the three-month period.
In October, Joby announced a deal worth up to $200 million with Atlanta-based airline Delta Air Lines. Under the agreement, Delta partners with Joby to provide home-to-airport transportation services to customers in New York and Los Angeles. The deal includes Delta’s $60 million investment in Joby, with a potential total investment of $200 million.
Sciarra says the companies are working on common milestones that include testing the integrated service and locating take-off and landing infrastructure in those select markets.
“We’re very excited about what this Delta opportunity can bring over time,” he said, adding that both companies are “working quite aggressively” to achieve these milestones.
Delta said at the time that the launch of the air taxi service – the date of which is not yet specified – would represent the “first eVTOL service on the market”. The agreement is mutually exclusive for five years after the commercial launch of the service, which will exist alongside Joby Airport’s regular service in “priority” areas.