Vertical Aerospace has announced that Justin Paines has joined the company as chief test pilot. He joins from Joby Aviation, where he held the same role for the past three years. It has also recruited Harry Holt as chief operating officer, the announcement further expands Vertical's senior leadership team.
Paines has an understanding of the technical aspects of developing and piloting V/STOL (vertical or short take off and landing) aircraft. He holds a Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT, he had a distinguished career in the Royal Air Force, including exchange duties with the US Air Force. While a test pilot in the RAF he pioneered development and flight test of a revolutionary V/STOL vehicle control system. This technology was later adopted by Lockheed Martin for the Joint Strike Fighter programme. He has evaluated aircraft including the Harrier, the X-35 experimental X-plane, the UK's fly by wire VAAC Harrier test bed and the Joby S4.
He is expected to conduct the first piloted flight of the VA-X4 in 2022. Vertical recently announced that its conditional preorder book had increased up to 1,350 aircraft with an estimated value of $5.4 billion.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder and CEO says: “Justin brings over three decades of outstanding expertise in piloting some of the world's most iconic aircraft. He will be a key part of the team that takes our VA-X4 through to certification, and we are tremendously excited to have him aboard our growing team.”
Holt joins Vertical from his current role as chief people officer at Rolls-Royce. He served as a member of the Rolls-Royce executive team managing its people strategy and with responsibility for over 50,000 employees globally. Previously, he led Rolls-Royce's nuclear business in support of the Royal Navy's submarine programme and the civil nuclear power markets worldwide, as well as previously being group operations strategy director. Holt began his career in the British Army, both as a commander on combat operations and later as a strategic planner in the UK Ministry of Defence.
As COO, Holt will focus on implementing Vertical's operational and manufacturing strategy, establishing its governance, control and assurance framework, and leading the business' government relations efforts. This will be a crucial role as it continues to deliver on key operational milestones in the production of the VA-X4.
Fitzpatrick says: "Harry brings extensive expertise of managing organisations operating at scale and speed, and is an outstanding addition to our team as we enter the next phase of growth. We are delighted to add Harry to our experienced team, which we have carefully assembled to commercialise the VA-X4, the eVTOL that will transform travel in the coming decade."