US air taxi start-up Joby Aviation has concluded the pre-production flight test programme that it launched four years ago, now transitioning into a production-focused phase of development. 

The Santa Cruz-based company enters the next stage of developing its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which will involve flying a production-conforming prototype in a for-certification test programme with the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Between two pre-production prototypes, Joby’s pre-production flight test phase covered 1,500 flights – including about 100 flights with a pilot onboard – covering a total distance of 28,700nm (53,150km).

Joby aircraft.jprg

Source: Joby Aviation

Joby is seeking FAA certification of its piloted, four-passenger eVTOL next year

The second of the pre-production prototypes completed a piloted demonstration flight in downtown Manhattan in a landmark moment for the eVTOL sector. 

“Over the course of this test programme, our team has shown the world how real electric air taxis are, with tens of thousands of miles flown using today’s battery technology,” says founder and chief executive JoeBen Bevirt.

”Our pre-production aircraft were the second full-scale generation of Joby’s design, and their performance met or exceeded our predictions throughout the programme, successfully achieving our targets for maximum range, speed and a revolutionary acoustic footprint,” he adds. 

Joby also used the aircraft to train US Air Force personnel how to fly an eVTOL through the transition from vertical to wingborne flight. 

Chief test pilot James Denham says that Joby often conducted flight tests with the aircraft multiple times per day, “in a wide variety of weather and operational conditions”.

”As a result, we have the most experienced and professional eVTOL flight test team in the world,” he says. 

The pre-production flight test programme was not without stumbles. Joby’s first prototype was destroyed in a February 2022 accident in which a lost propeller blade caused the remotely piloted aircraft to break up in mid-air.

Earlier this year, Joby told FlightGlobal that the accident prompted it to adopt ”a range of improvements to our design and testing methodologies, many of which were already planned”. 

The second pre-production prototype of Joby’s eVTOL will be used for research and development of future aircraft technologies. 

Joby recently rolled the second production-conforming eVTOL prototype off its pilot production line in Marina, California.