The Lilium Jet uses a radically different approach when it comes to its propulsion system. Embedded in its articulating canard and main wing are 30 (down from the original 36) small, electrically powered, ducted-fan, single-stage jet engines. These provide the thrust for both vertical and horizontal flight. Based in Munich, Germany, Lilium began work on the Jet in 2015, but the first flight of a scale-model technology demonstration version wasn’t achieved until 2019. By 2022 the company had built its fifth-generation technology demonstrator, a design Lilium calls the Phoenix 2. That airplane made its first full-transition flight, in which both the canard and main wing adjusted to move from vertical to wing-borne flight and reached an airspeed of approximately 100 knots.
As for progress toward certification, Lilium says it has completed its means of compliance documents and its third EASA design organization approval and expects to receive its fourth and final approval in 2023.
Even though the Jet has yet to be certified in Europe or the United States, Lilium has said it will enter into service in 2025. It’s racked up sales agreements with such companies as NetJets, the UK’s eVolare, Spanish shuttle operator Helity, Benelux business jet operator ASL Group, and Brazilian airline Azul—which ordered 220 Jets in a deal worth $1 billion. FlightSafety International has signed on as the training organization for Lilium, and the company has plans to build a network of vertiports across Florida. And in a deal valued at $3.3 billion, Lilium went public (NASDAQ: LILM) via a special purpose acquisition company/reverse merger with Qell Acquisition Corporation. Between the SPAC and private investments, Lilium said it would raise funds to augment its five-seat model by developing a seven-seat Lilium Jet.
Lilium has its critics, who doubt the energy density of its batteries and its claim of a maximum range of 155 statute miles. We’ll know more in two years, when the first Liliums should grace the skies.