Vertical Aerospace targets 2024 certification on back of record pre-sales
Vertical Aerospace, operating out of Bristol, England, has announced more pre-sales than anyone else in the eVTOL industry – more than 1,350 aircraft to date, or US$5.4 billion dollars' worth, and believes it will be one of the first companies to achieve type certification with the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA), meeting compliance standards it says are much tougher than the US FAA's.
With a public listing on the NYSE imminent through a SPAC merger, Vertical has now shown its aircraft breaking out of CG renders and into the flesh – albeit in the form of what's essentially a life-sized, non-functional model called the VX4.
The eventual production VA-X4 air taxi promises to move a pilot and up to four passengers at speeds up to 202 mph (325 km/h) in near-silent operation, making around 60 dB in a hover and 45 dB in cruise mode. Using proven lithium battery cell technology that's out there and available now, the company says it will offer range figures over 100 miles (161 km) on debut – this figure will rise as cell chemistry improves.
In terms of configuration, it's very similar to the design used by Wisk and Archer: a wing-borne, V-tailed hybrid between the lift & cruise and vectored thrust approaches. There are eight reasonably large-diameter props, distributed along the front and back of the wing. The front ones are five-bladed, and they're capable of tilting between a vertical orientation for VTOL and a horizontal orientation for cruise. The rear four have four blades, and while they can't tilt, they can scissor up to stack and sit like a two-bladed prop to reduce drag in forward flight.
This VX4 model is not functional, although it does appear to have some pretty sweet LED highlights and a cabin you can sit in. It's a very handsome aircraft, and not a little intimidating in matt carbon black.
Despite the impressive achievements of Vertical's pre-sales team, it's interesting to note that the company is yet to even complete a full-scale prototype for flight testing. US-based competitor Joby Aviation, by comparison, has already made thousands of full-scale test flights, and even relative newcomer Archer has got its prototype ready to start flight testing soon.
Vertical has hired a Chief Test Pilot, Justin Paines, away from the same position at Joby, and the company says he should get to fly a VA-X4 sometime in 2022. The plan is to produce four certification testing aircraft in 2023 and get the meat of the certification testing underway. Production should start in early 2024, and if all goes to plan Vertical expects full EASA type certification by the end of 2024.
Check out the VX4 model below.
Source: Vertical Aerospace