California air taxi developer Archer Aviation has yet to fly its in-development Midnight aircraft but says it remains on track to hit targets for certification and entry to service.
That is according to Billy Nolen, chief safety officer of the San Jose-based start-up, who maintains the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle’s first flight is not being held back by technical or engineering issues.
“Midnight will be flying,” he says. “The team is still working through some things… I feel pretty good about our progress in terms of where the engineering team is and in terms of everything we’re doing on the certification side,” he said on 27 September during the Regional Airline Association’s Leaders Conference in Washington DC. “I can tell you that it will be flying soon.”
Nolen told FlightGlobal in July that Archer would attempt first flight of its production aircraft at the company’s test facility in Salinas, California “within a matter of days”. But the aircraft has since remained earthbound.
Declining to identify the target date for Midnight’s first sortie, Nolen adds that Archer is flying its Maker prototype aircraft “almost daily”.
“First and foremost, we want to makes sure we do it right,” he says. “We’re not just looking for headlines… Our goal is to make sure that when we bring Midnight to market that it’s ready. We want to hit our major milestones to be in the air, have our certification and [enter] commercial service by 2025. And there has been no change that takes us off that trajectory.”
Nolen acknowledges that the looming shutdown of the US government could affect the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to certificate an entirely new class of aircraft, however.
“We certainly don’t want to see a stoppage in any of that work,” he says.
Among the highest-profile companies in a crowded field of eVTOL developers, Archer is facing a class-action lawsuit filed on 21 September alleging that the company and its executives misled investors about Archer’s progress certificating its air taxi, violating US securities laws.
“We believe the claims are without merit and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” the company said on 26 September.
“While not being able to comment about any particular lawsuit because that’s not my area of expertise, I can say with a degree of confidence that we are on track,” Nolen adds.
Archer is racing rival northern California eVTOL developer Joby Aviation to begin flying passengers with the USA’s first air taxis in 2025.
Joby is generally thought to have the edge, but Archer’s chief operating officer Tom Muniz said during the company’s quarterly earnings call on 10 August that he believes “we will take the lead over the next 12 months in the race to bring the first commercial aircraft to market”.