Joby Says It’s Certifying As A Traditional Aircraft

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Joby Aviation, an electric aircraft manufacturer that envisions a zero direct-emissions aerial ride-sharing network, says to speed FAA approvals, it will certify the aircraft as a traditional airplane rather than a multirotor. Heretofore, Joby has been secretive about the details of its aircraft, but in an hourlong online briefing this week, the company pulled back the curtain in the first of a planned series of presentations.

Company founder JoeBen Bevirt, who launched Joby a decade ago, reiterated his ambition to “decarbonize and democratize air travel for millions of people.” Bevirt has famously said his goal is to save one billion people an hour a day by substituting quiet air taxis for surface transportation. To do that, says the company, they plan to certify the Joby eVTOL as an airplane, not as a new or special category.

“Certifying as a special category means you are starting from scratch across the board,” says Greg Bowles, Joby’s head of government and regulatory affairs. “But at Joby, we had certification, pilot training and operation in mind from the very beginning. Our aircraft is designed to be flown in today’s system with the ability to adapt to evolve into a future system. From a size, scale and weight perspective, we fit into Part 23. We can glide on the wing, we can take off and land from runways like a conventional airplane, we have airplane-like pilot controls and we’ve designed our aircraft to meet all the performance and structural requirements of an airplane,” he explains.

The company says it has reached agreement with the FAA on a certification path and is now in discussions about how to move forward with the actual testing toward a planned entry into commercial operation in 2024. As currently construed, Joby’s aircraft has six tilting power units that can be positioned vertically for takeoff and then rotated forward for cruise flight. It has a high aspect ratio wing with both dihedral and anhedral and a large V-tail with two power units mounted on the tips. The aircraft is battery powered and carries four passengers, plus a pilot. Joby claims the aircraft has completed a 77-minute, 154-mile flight. NASA recently collected data on the Joby’s noise signature.

Although the aircraft may eventually fit into a largely autonomous transportation network, the company is specifically certifying it as a piloted aircraft to ease its fit into the current aerospace and regulatory system. “What was really important was fielding an aircraft that fits into today’s system and one that people are ready to accept today. So the goal is to assure … we’re using something that can exist as soon as we get through the certification process,” Bowles said.

When asked if the aircraft will come out of the blocks with an autoland feature, Joby’s Didier Papadopoulos, head of engineering, was vague, saying only that it will have a range of safety technologies. (Papadopoulos was on the Garmin team that developed the company’s Autoland system.) With a persistent pilot shortage as air transport continues to grow, Joby says it will develop its own flight academy to train pilots and it has already submitted a Part 135 Air Taxi application to the FAA.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for describing the Joby eVTOL as a “zero direct emissions” aircraft. With all the hype about electric vehicles, invariably most are described as “zero emission” vehicles. We all know those batteries’ electrical charge require the utility grid, and a hefty percentage of that grid is not emission-free. So, “zero emission” vehicles really are just moving the emissions from the vehicle to the grid. At least the term “zero direct emissions” is a bit more honest!

  2. ” Bevirt has famously said his goal is to save one billion people an hour a day by substituting quiet air taxis for surface transportation.” So, even if each unit is shared by two people, there will be half a BILLION of these flying around? That’s something like 1/3 of the total number of cars in the world. The acquisition cost would be on the order of 2-4 times the GDP of the entire US, not counting the required infrastructure. Yeah, that’s going to happen! Even if it was real, I doubt that there are many real examples of someone saving an hour a day by using an eVTOL.

  3. I watched the investor presentation (https://lnkd.in/dN96pQfq) and agree with Joby’s Brian Garrett-Glaser that there was a failure to communicate. Paul Bertorelli, who is not enmeshed in the details Part 23 Amdt 64/Part 27/Part 21.17(a&b) like those of us who are developing new VTOL aircraft, heard “Part 23,” and the headline ended up saying Joby is certifying the S4 “as a traditional aircraft,” and the article text said “airplane.” But they’re in fact still certifying it as a novel battery-eVTOL – and I wish them luck with it!

      • Just to be clear, the rewritten Part 23 Amendment 64 enables certification of an aircraft that can fly like an airplane as well as conduct VTOL operations. Part 23 Amendment 62, the previous version, would not have allowed for certifying VTOL functionality. Knowing that, I find Greg’s and the others’ comments entirely consistent, and I think “airplane” is too limiting a word for their aircraft. “Battery-eVTOL” would capture the fullness of their certification and operating intentions better, IMHO.

    • Ok, as Paul said, Joby’s certification basis is Part 23 with various special conditions for their novel technologies based on their own repeated explanations in that presentation and in at least 4 other presentations in the past year that I found in 10 seconds. In the link at 10:19 they are explicitly saying they are certifying as a normal cat Part 23 and “Our aircraft is designed to be certified as an airplane”. Obviously prop, powerplant, noise have their own regs and basis for cert.
      Thanks for the link I cringed through that whole investor presentation. Joby gave us two faces that are supposed to assure investors:
      Mr. Gregory J. Bowles has spent the last 15+ years as a gladhandler at GAMA. According to his bio, “Greg is responsible for developing new paths for the integration of emerging general aviation technologies” – Well, we all know that GA has been deluged with new tech for the past 15 years, so now we know who to thank!
      In the presentation they present Mr. Bowles as a certification ninja and evidently he was a certification engineer at Keystone a couple decades ago. According to their info, “Keystone offers certification services for STC, TSO, PMA and FAA/DER-approved data for 337s”. Sorry, I missed where this would qualify someone to lead certification of an novel aircraft design. Prior to that he managed anti-ice design on Citations 20+ years ago. Sounds good, but is that sufficient to lead multiple projects to certify airframe, powerplant, props, energy storage and distrib using emerging tech?
      He then hands the mic to Mr. Didier Papadopoulos who has been at Jobi for a whole six months. When your televangelist converted 6 months ago, don’t pass me the collection plate. He was a business VP at Garmin and his linkedin in advertises no certification experience . Like any VP, he basks in the glow of his team’s success earning Garmin’s recent Collier trophy and on NAA’s website they have a 250-photo album of the awards ceremony, and I still trying to find him in the group photos. It could be that he was working late dreaming up yet another certification project?? Even if he was the Steve Jobs of this tech “marvel”, this appears to be the capability that was demonstrated by military contractors 40+ years ago. Even if this is totally innovative, it doesn’t seem to equate at all to a demonstrated ability to get a TC for completely new airframe/powerplant/energy techs. Maybe an investor would think he’s a certification expert, though.
      So Mr. Papadopoulos gives a 20 min update. At the 22:40 mark his summary of “Our Progress” is:
      1) Certification Basis is done. Which is nice but anyone can get a certification basis since it’s just a PATH to certification. According to FAA Order 8110.4C, “Early in a type certificate project, the FAA establishes the certification basis, defining the applicable requirements of 14 CFR for the issuance of the TC.” So now you know what rules to follow. Congrats, but to say that getting a G-1 is a major accomplishment is like saying me finally getting an MCAT prep book from the library assures that I will be a physician in 2024. An approved basis is just Step Zero. But at 22:30, he says that his G-1 means the FAA has “confirmed that they have a path to market” for their plane. Huh? I am reading AC 20-166 and I can’t seem to find the page where they’ll tell you that you are now well on the way to putting your plane on the market…

      2) Means of Compliance – He starts with the truth: that they are discussing this with the FAA and “so formally, that’s where we are in the process” 22:40. He should stop there. But then here’s where it gets iffy with many hedge words in rapid succession “we’ve been working on cert plans for quite a while and we’re prepared to submit these as soon as the time is right”. Sure. So when is the right time?? This sounds like my excuses when my GF asks why I haven’t proposed to her yet. “we aim to have ALMOST all of these (criteria) accepted in the fist half of next year” 23:40- whaaaat? Are you going to have it done in 6 months or not? If not, then WHEN EXACTLY are you realistically going to get agree with FAA on means of compliance (i.e. Step One)
      3) Certification Plans – Some honesty finally – he says most will have to wait on means of compliance agreement. This will happen “in earnest throughout next year” Ok, by your own timeline you get the second half of the year. Good luck. Try getting anyone at FAA to answer the phone in the last 7 weeks of the year.

      But then he glosses over:
      4)Testing/Analysis – he says they are working on test plan but their 3)certification plans are at risk of being useless if FAA disagrees. But even if FAA is on board, this would just be the test PLAN, but he makes no mention of the enormously complex and expensive test processes that end most TC projects. Don’t worry investors, how hard could it be to certify everything from scratch on a totally new aircraft using tech no one else ever has? That happens pretty much every day, right??
      5)FAA Verification of your testing and analysis. He admits they have the same problem – they can’t develop a test process until the certification plan is agreed to, but still somehow magically this will be done next year, and in the meantime he’ll do his own testing as a “practice exam” 24:10. I thought they brought him onboard as a certification expert? With such an aggressive timeline, why do you need to waste investor resources on tests unrelated to what the FAA will be asking you for?
      He alludes to the main problem is that this is a basically a waterfall process because first they have to firm up areas 2) and 3) with FAA before doing anything substantial, but then he keeps saying he is dealing with a non-linear process and he can get stuff done while charming the FAA on the side so that they can make their 2024 date. They are trying to use disruptive tech processes to innovate a very formally regulated industry, and they think they are going to be the one’s to warm FAA’s hearts and get this done in 37 months. Best of luck.

      ok, yes I am not a certification expert. Our last project lost several million dollars and I still have to remotely start my car after things went sideways for me a lot of very smart people, many who were DERs or other cert experts (one from a company whose planes start with “7”). Looking back, I should have gotten myself a GAMA perpetual conference emcee and a Garmin business manager since I am sure these guys and all others developing VTOL will make this happen in the next couple years.
      I might not be enmeshed but 30 odd years of aero project management gives me a some ability to see when people are selling things that don’t add up. Joby, show me a somewhat feasible Gantt chart and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.