US electric air taxi developer Archer Aviation has secured final airworthiness criteria from the Federal Aviation Administration for its Midnight aircraft, marking a significant milestone in its effort to launch commercial flights as soon as next year.

The Santa Clara-based start-up disclosed the regulatory milestone on 23 May, asserting that it now has a “solidified path” to securing an FAA type certificate for its piloted, four-passenger electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

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Source: Archer Aviation

Archer’s Midnight aircraft has cleared a major regulatory milestone 

The FAA is classifying eVTOLs as powered-lift vehicles and requires special airworthiness criteria for each model being certificated. The civil aviation regulator has issued similar guidelines for just one other US eVTOL developer – Archer’s competitor Joby Aviation, which cleared the milestone in March.  

“Midnight is one giant step closer to taking passengers into the sky in the coming years in the US,” says Bill Nolen, Archer’s chief safety officer. 

Securing airworthiness criteria allows Archer to continue ramping up for-certification flight testing activities. The company has been flying a remotely operated pre-production prototype of Midnight in Salinas, California and is currently assembling six conforming aircraft that will be used as part of the certification programme. 

Archer claims it has made ”significant progress on the construction of its first three piloted conforming Midnight aircraft” and that it will begin piloted flight-testing this year. 

Joby’s all-electric aircraft – called the JAS4-1 – is considered by some industry observers to likely become the first eVTOL to clear type certification with the FAA. However, Archer is hot on Joby’s heels in a race to commercialisation that has both companies exploring potential operations in the Middle East.