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Joby pushes launch to 2025

Citing a change in FAA certification rules, Joby Aviation stated that it’s pushing the target date for its entry into eVTOL passenger service to 2025.

Image courtesy of Joby Aviation.

For a company that has the jump on its competition, this represents a big setback. And one that affects not just Joby, but other eVTOL companies as well.

Initially, the FAA had led Joby to believe that its eVTOL, the model JAS4-1—and by extension, all eVTOLs—could be operated under existing FAR Part 23 rules for airplanes, but with special conditions that acknowledged their differences. This would allow them to fly without any new or altered rulemaking. This initial plan was to use the certification procedures outlined in FAR 21.17(a), which is intended for aircraft that closely match the characteristics of conventional airplanes or helicopters.

By late 2021, the plan went awry. The FAA came to the conclusion that even if eVTOLs could be certified under Part 23, pilot certification could not. Plus, there was little that was airplane-like about many eVTOLs. For one, they can hover, and some may not have wings. There are wingless multicopters (like Volocopter), vectored thrust aircraft (Lilium), tiltrotor-style variants (Joby), and lift-plus-cruise aircraft (Jaunt). Collectively, the term “powered lift” is being used to identify this new class of aircraft.

To reconcile this disconnect, FAA leadership decided in May 2022 that eVTOLs and their ilk would follow the certification processes defined by FAR 21.17(b). This approach requires that manufacturers pick their proposed standards from a list of existing certification rules for airplanes, rotorcraft, engines, and propellers.

The only problem is that it will take time to develop and finalize this jumble of certification processes and standards. It could take until late 2024, which is why Joby mentions its new 2025 entry into service.

The proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on November 8. Comments may be submitted until December 8.

Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
Topics: Advanced Air Mobility, Technology

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