Reuters is reporting that FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen will join eVTOL startup Archer Aviation in the next few weeks. Nolen, who’s been the interim leader of the agency for more than a year after Steve Dickson quit in March of 2022, announced his departure last month. Reuters cited unnamed sources and neither Archer nor the FAA would confirm it. Reuters did take another look at his departure notice and noted that Nolen might have left a hint when he wrote “we will see eVTOLs certified in just a few years, instead of decades … Not since the dawn of the jet age have we seen so many advances and changes in aerospace.”
Nolen’s announcement came shortly after Phil Washington, the White House nominee for the FAA post, withdrew after a rough ride during his nomination hearing at the Senate. His relative lack of aviation experience and his brush with a corruption scandal during his tenure as head of public transit in Los Angeles were sticking points with some senators. Meanwhile, Reuters says Katie Thomson, the current chief of staff, may fill in for Nolen while the nomination process is rebooted.
Archer, meanwhile, has the conforming prototype of its multicopter in ground tests and expects to fly it in the next few weeks. The company has received investments from United Airlines and carmaker Stellantis and will start building a factory in Covington, Georgia, next year. It says it will build 2,300 aircraft, named Midnight, a year. The Midnight will carry four passengers and a pilot and is designed for flights of 20 to 50 miles although it has a maximum range of 100 miles.