Joby Aero, a California-based company developing all-electric aircraft for commercial passenger service, has taken the first step towards building the first eVTOL airline, by beginning the process to receive a Part 135 air carrier certificate issued by the FAA.
A Part 135 air carrier certificate is required for Joby to operate its aircraft as an air taxi service in cities and communities around the US. Alongside a type certificate and production certificate, this is one of three regulatory approvals critical to the planned launch of Joby's all-electric aerial ridesharing service in 2024.
The company is now in the first of five stages necessary for Joby to achieve Part 135 certification in 2022. It expects to start the next stage of the process in August, with the submission of additional application materials including the full complement of airline operating manuals. Once that documentation is approved, the FAA will visit Joby locations to observe training sessions and witness flight operations before issuing its final approval.
As Joby's all-electric eVTOL aircraft is not expected to receive its type certification until 2023, the company intends to operate traditional, existing, certified aircraft under the Part 135 air carrier certification from 2022 before adding the Joby aircraft to the airline operating certificate once it is certified.
The process is led by Joby's head of air operations, Bonny Simi, an aviation executive who held key operational and strategic positions at JetBlue Airways as it underwent a period of rapid growth. Simi also has over 30 years of experience as an airline pilot at JetBlue and United Airlines.
“We're excited to reach this milestone on the path toward becoming the first eVTOL airline in the world,” says Simi. “We look forward to working closely with the FAA as we prepare to welcome passengers to a new kind of air travel, one that is environmentally friendly, quiet enough to operate close to cities and communities, and will save people valuable time.”
Joby's air operations team includes numerous aviation industry veterans with extensive experience, including Kellen Mollahan, a former MV-22 pilot with the US Marine Corps, as assistant director of operations; Matthew Lykins, an expert maintenance safety inspector and auditor, avionics technician and pilot with more than 30 years of experience, as director of maintenance; Peter Wilson, former lead test pilot for the F-35B programme with more than 35 years of flight test and instructor experience, as director of flight standards and training; and Jill Wilson, an aviation safety leader who has held roles at Embraer, XO Jet and Cape Air.
Joby's all-electric aircraft is designed to transport a pilot and four passengers with zero operation emissions. The aircraft has a range of 150 miles, can travel at speeds up to 200 mph and has a revolutionary low noise footprint.
Last year, Joby agreed to a ‘G-1’ certification basis with the FAA for its aircraft in line with existing Part 23 requirements for Normal Category Airplanes, with special conditions introduced to address requirements specific to Joby's unique aircraft. In line with this certification approach, Joby will employ commercial airline pilots licensed under existing FAA regulations to fly its passenger service.
Joby has also achieved an important milestone in the development of its aircraft, flying a full-size prototype vehicle more than 150 miles on a single charge, including a vertical take-off and landing.
The flight was completed at Joby's electric flight base in Big Sur, California earlier this month as part of the company's ongoing flight test campaign. The aircraft, piloted from the ground by Joby's chief test pilot, Justin Paines, took off vertically before transitioning to forward flight and completing 11 laps of a predefined circuit. After more than one hour and 17 minutes in the air, the aircraft landed vertically, having covered a total distance of 154.6 statute miles.
Founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt says: “We've achieved something that many thought impossible with today's battery technology. By doing so we've taken the first step towards making convenient, emissions-free air travel between places like San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, Houston and Austin or Los Angeles and San Diego an everyday reality.”
Joby's prototype aircraft uses commercially available lithium ion batteries that have been adapted for aerospace use. An 811 NMC cathode and a graphite anode cell were selected, following internal testing, to deliver the optimal trade-off between the specific energy required to fly the aircraft 150 miles, the specific power to take-off and land vertically and the cycle life to deliver an affordable service. Joby has demonstrated in the lab that this battery is capable of more than 10,000 of its expected nominal flight cycles.