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Thu, Nov 24, 2022

FAA Proposes Rules to Advance eVTOL Air-Taxi Operations

Up, Up, and a Way

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a series of new rules by which the agency proposes to hasten the actualization of commercial electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) air-taxi operations.

Long touted as flying taxis, eVTOLs and the self-explanatory notion of low-altitude urban air mobility have engendered intense worldwide interest and compelled numerous entrepreneurs to found eVTOL concerns and take them public.

The FAA issued a proposal to amend its regulations governing Part 121, Part 135, and Part 91 commercial operations by expanding its definition of air-carrier to include power-lift operations. The agency put forth in a statement: "This powered-lift definitions rule lays the foundation that will allow operators to use powered-lift aircraft.” Publication of subject proposal is slated for summer of 2023.

The FAA is also developing a regulatory framework encompassing the certification of eVTOL pilots and the creation of operation specifications germane to powered-lift/eVTOL air-carriers.

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen has publicly stated that his agency does not expect the first eVTOL to begin commercial operations until late 2024—or more likely early 2025. "At any rate it won't happen until the safety piece has been satisfied," Nolen remarked.

Both scheduled and non-scheduled air-carriers are exploring the viability of eVTOL air-taxi business models and the development of transport services utilizing such contraptions. The appeal of eVTOL air-taxis lies primarily in the ability of such vehicles to operate from confined urban spaces—such as rooftops and dedicated facilities ascribed the neologism vertiports—and ferry travelers on short trips between intra-city locations or to major airports for purpose of connecting to conventional airline service.

In November 2022, the FAA issued the airworthiness criteria upon which the certification of air-taxi startup Joby Aviation’s Model JAS4-1 eVTOL will be predicated. Joby hopes to commence commercial eVTOL passenger air-taxi services in 2025—pending the requisite FAA approvals.

In a partnership that seeks to eventually offer passengers eVTOL air-taxi transport to and from airports in New York and Los Angeles, Delta Airlines has invested $60-million in Joby Aviation.

Administrator Nolen posits the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics will see high demand for eVTOL air-taxis. "We may see some of them in the years leading up, but nowhere near the scale in 2028," he opined.

To meet the air-transport industry’s ambitious growth plans, the FAA, as if compelled by Nolen’s prognostication, expects to issue an implementation plan addressing eVTOL air-taxi operations in the second quarter of 2023.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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