The innovation arm of Textron is leaning on sister and subsidiary companies to develop its first electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. 

Textron eAviation, founded in 2022 following the  €218 million ($238 million) acquisition of Slovenian aircraft developer Pipistrel, recently moved into the the building phase of its Nexus programme, with the aircraft’s all-composite fuselage and 15m (50ft) wing taking shape. 

That is according to Kriya Shortt, chief executive of Textron eAviation, who recently briefed reporters on the eVTOL platform’s progress in Wichita.  

Pipistrel’s electric aviation technology is boosting development of Textron eAviation’s Nexus eVTOL, Shortt says. “It is really an accelerant for us to be able to take their innovative spirit and technology. They’re very well respected across the EU for their prowess at being able to execute on these new technologies.”


Source: Textron eAviation

Nexus will be a product of collaboration across several Textron Aviation-owned companies 

Shortt has worked for Textron Aviation for 28 years, including seven years as senior vice-president of sales for Cessna Aircraft. She was part of the integration team when Cessna was acquired by Textron Aviation, later leading global sales and customer support, and finally the parts and distribution business for Textron Aviation.

She took over as CEO of Textron eAviation in September 2023. Today, the company employs a 60-person workforce – a small but “mighty” team that is able to punch above its weight due to Textron’s in-house expertise. 

Companies chipping into Nexus’ development include Pipistrel – a resource on battery and electric powertrain technology – as well as sister companies Bell, supplying tiltrotor expertise, and McCauley Propeller for propellers. Textron eAviation also recently acquired German engineering company Amazilia Aerospace, which is developing digital flight-control and guidance systems. And the company leans on the production capabilities of its parent. 

“We send our materials over, and Textron Aviation has people build the parts for us,” Shortt says. “It’s a great collaboration. How we can do something with such a small team is because we have such a great footprint here.” 

Pipistrel is focused mainly on the market for highly efficient trainers, including its Velis Electro and Alpha Trainers. In March, the US Federal Aviation Administration granted Pipistrel an airworthiness exemption for the Velis Electro.

The type was the first commercially available, all-electric aircraft to secure certification anywhere, following EASA’s approval of the two-seater in 2020. It remains the “world’s only EASA-certified electric aircraft”, Shortt says. “They have been putting a lot of time and effort into developing developing electric-powered aircraft battery technology, which of course we need for eVTOLs.” 

Nexus is positioned to partake in the air taxi market but will also be aimed at “civic use, humanitarian use, the EMS space and potentially the special mission space, as well”, Shortt says.

The proposed aircraft – targeted for service entry toward the end of the decade – is to be piloted and carry three or four passengers. 

Textron eAviation is running an iron bird test rig to evaluate Nexus’ flight systems. It is also building a ground-control station to test-fly Nexus in an uncrewed configuration prior to launching piloted sorties.

“There is full fly-by-wire,” Shortt says. “We want to make sure that we’re taking the appropriate steps to validate the aircraft.”

The company hopes to complete the prototype’s assembly this year and launch a flight-test programme in 2025.

Competitors in the USA may have a head start, with segment leaders saying they plan to launch commercial service as soon as next year. But Shortt says that having the backing of Textron Aviation is a separator for Nexus in a crowded eVTOL market. 

“I think the vehicle will be a best-in-class vehicle because that’s what Textron does,” she says. “Our experience in being an aerospace company lets us lean into understanding who our customers are and really develop products we think will be competitive.” 

This story has been edited to note Textron eAviation’s recent acquisition of Amazilia Aerospace, and for clarity on Textron’s owership chain.