U.K. eVTOL Developer Vertical Aerospace Hires Veteran RAF Test Pilot


Bristol, U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace has hired Justin “Jif” Paines to take the reins as chief test pilot. Paines comes to Vertical from another electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) developer, California-based Joby Aviation, where he served as chief test pilot for three years. Paines holds a master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as a test pilot in the British Royal Air Force, including exchange stints with the U.S. Air Force.

While in the military, Paines pioneered development of new V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and land) control system designed to maximize performance and reduce pilot workload. The system was later adopted by Lockheed Martin for the Joint Strike Fighter program, according to Vertical Aerospace.

Among the aircraft Paines evaluated are the Harrier; the X-35 experimental X-plane, the UK’s Harrier fly-by-wire testbed; and the Joby S4.

Paines is slated to be the test pilot on the first flights of Vertical’s VA-X4 five-place eVTOL candidate, planned for next year. It is expected to have a top speed of greater than 202 statute miles per hour and a range of better than 100 miles. Besides being a zero-emissions aircraft, he VA-X4 is also expected to be “100 times quieter than a helicopter”—generating 45 dB at cruise and 60 dB in hover.

“Justin brings over three decades of outstanding expertise in piloting some of the world’s most iconic aircraft,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder and CEO of Vertical Aerospace. “He will be a key part of the team that takes our VA-X4 through to certification and we are tremendously excited to have him aboard our growing team.” Vertical claims a “conditional pre-order book” (no terms announced) of “up to 1,350 aircraft with an estimated value of $5.4 billion.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Oh, now they’ve triggered me. “Zero emissions”??
    Just because you exported your pollution to the power plant, the battery factory, and the battery recycling plant doesn’t mean you have “zero emissions”. It means you are virtue signalling and deceiving everyone.