The business aviation community got a close look at the air mobility change that is coming in the shape of new electric and increasingly autonomous aircraft this week at NBAA-BACE 2022. A higher-profile emerging technologies zone at the show includes several pioneers working to bring eVTOL and eSTOL aircraft to market.
The most eye-catching item in an array of new aircraft models is the cabin mockup for Supernal’s four-passenger eVTOL. The Hyundai Motor subsidiary gave visitors the chance to be virtual air-taxi passengers by enjoying a simulated ride to a shopping center and restaurant.
Also pitching their plans for the advanced mobility sector are rival eVTOL aircraft developers Jaunt, Overair, and Wisk. Electra is displaying a model of its nine-passenger eSTOL aircraft and on Tuesday announced the signing of a letter of intent with private charter group Welojets, which plans to add 32 of the hybrid-electric models to its fleet.
Representing efforts to introduce hydrogen propulsion to the aviation sector is ZeroAvia. The company is preparing to start test flights with its fuel-cell-based powertrain on a 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft.
Also on Tuesday, NBAA held a panel discussion on the certification process for new electric aircraft that also covered preparations for AAM infrastructure. Speakers included leaders from Overair, Archer Aviation, Textron eAviation, and Eviation, which last month achieved first flight of its all-electric Alice aircraft. From the FAA, associate administrator for airports Shannetta Griffin, and acting associate administrator for aviation safety David Boulter, emphasized that the agency is stepping up its efforts to have a sound regulatory process in place.
“The eVTOL aircraft have given us a different [certification] challenge with the electric motors and higher volumes [of production],” Boulter said. “We have settled on FAR 21.17(b) as the certification basis, combining Part 23 and Part 27 with some special conditions. For operations, we will treat them as powered lift somewhere in the middle of fixed-wing and helicopter rules. We will have the operational rules in place in time, including requirements for pilots.”