FAA “modification” approach to eVTOL certification
In a move the FAA says won’t add delays to completing type certification, the agency says it’s “changing its regulatory approach” to certifying electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. ).
So far, major US eVTOL developers such as Joby Aviation, Beta Technologies and Archer Aviation have been moving toward type certification under Part 23 regulations for light aircraft.
On Monday, the FAA said it now plans to certify eVTOLs as powered-lift aircraft — an existing category — and, in the “long term,” develop additional powered-lift regulations “to enable the ‘safety innovation’ for ‘pilot operations and training’. ”
In the near term, the agency plans to issue type certificates in the powered-lift category as part of its “special class” process in FAR 21.17(b) of the regulations, using airworthiness standards based on the performance contained in the Part 23 Small Airplane Regulations.
“This ‘special class’ process is designed to address the many new characteristics of unique aircraft such as these emerging powered-lift designs,” the FAA said. “This regulatory framework already exists, and this approach is consistent with international standards.”
The emerging eVTOL industry aims to create battery-powered aircraft that can fly short distances over congested cities with minimal noise and without creating carbon emissions.
FAA: no delays expected
The FAA said FLYING in a written statement Monday evening that he “does not expect this adjustment to our approach to add delay to completion [the] type certification process and receipt of operational approval.
“The agency is working with applicants who currently have projects underway to ensure minimal disruption to their certification schedule,” the FAA said. Archer, Joby and Beta have all said they expect their new aircraft to be type certified in 2024.
In fact, last March Joby Aviation, which officially launched its type certification process in 2018, announced that the FAA had approved its initial systems and compliance reviews, including flight, propulsion and battery management.
Joby declined to comment on the FAA policy adjustment, and Archer and Beta have yet to respond to FLYING request for comment.
Last September, Archer received FAA approval for its G-1 certification basis, establishing the airworthiness and environmental requirements necessary to achieve type certification under Part 23.
“A Simpler Way”
In a statement to FLYINGan FAA spokesperson said “the change is part of the agency’s efforts to safely and efficiently integrate new aircraft types into the nation’s aerospace system, while providing an easier path for applicants to obtain the necessary FAA approvals.
The FAA’s changed regulatory approach was first reported Monday night by The Air Current.
The agency and Congress have been working for years to create a smooth path to certification for eVTOL developers without having to completely revamp existing rules for traditional aircraft.
Many air taxi designs currently under development are winged aircraft augmented with vertical lift provided by rotors or tiltrotors driven by battery-powered motors.
“FAA regulations were designed for traditional airplanes and helicopters,” the FAA said in its Monday statement. “However, these regulations did not provide for the need to train pilots in the use of powered lift, which takes off in helicopter mode, switches to airplane mode to fly, and then returns to helicopter mode to land.”
Certification process being audited
The change comes two months after a memo from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General said it would conduct an audit to examine the FAA’s certification process.
The audit should be completed within the next year.