Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary Supernal has appointed NASA veteran David McBride as chief technology officer, tasking him with leading the development and certification of the company’s proposed electric air taxi. 

Washington, DC-headquartered Supernal said on 25 March that McBride will be responsible for technology strategy and aircraft development, reporting to chief executive Jaiwon Shin and overseeing some 400 employees in its engineering and technology division. 

Shin says that the company is entering a new phase of development since it revealed in January its conceptual SA-2 air taxi during consumer electronics show CES in Las Vegas.

“David has spent his career… leading numerous successful missions at NASA, and we are eager for him to help lead Supernal in bringing our scalable eVTOL vehicle to market in 2028,” Shin says. 


Source: Supernal

Supernal’s SA-2 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will seat four passengers and a pilot 

McBride previously worked as director of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, where he “led the centre in achieving full operational capability of the Boeing 747SP aircraft”, a high-flying variant of the iconic widebody jet, Supernal says. 

”McBride was integral to expanding aerospace knowledge and capabilities, including the record-breaking flight of the solar-powered Helios aircraft to an altitude of more than 96,000ft,” the start-up adds. 

He also helped develop the X-57 Maxwell, NASA’s all-electric aircraft. 

McBride says that he is ”honoured to join Supernal to help certify and commercialise an aircraft that our team has been working toward for the past several years. It is an exciting time as we transition from the engineering design phase to the build and execution phases.” 

The piloted, four-passenger SA-2 features a V-tail and will operate with a distributed electric propulsion system driving eight tiltrotors. Cruising at 104kt (193km/h), it will be optimised for flights between 40km (25mi) and 64km. 

The start-up adds that it will leverage Hyundai’s mass manufacturing capabilities when the time comes to scale production of its eVTOL, and that the company will draw on its experience designing ”smart cars”. 

Supernal intends to complete a first flight with a technology demonstrator by the end of 2024 and assemble a production prototype by 2026.