Joby Aviation has expanded its flight test programme to include flying with a pilot on board the aircraft, a critical step on the company's journey towards commercial operations.
Four members of Joby's flight test team have now piloted flights on board Joby's pre-production prototype aircraft, completing a series of initial tests that included free thrust-borne hovers and forward transitions to semi thrust-borne flight.
The testing took place at the company's pilot production facility in Marina, California and complements ongoing flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, where both Joby and US Air Force pilots will demonstrate the aircraft's capabilities in realistic operating scenarios.
To date, the majority of Joby's flight testing has been piloted remotely from a ground control station, using communications technology and software. This has allowed the company to generate a vast amount of data on the performance of the aircraft across a broad range of flight conditions.
The pilot on board campaign was led by Joby chief test pilot James 'Buddy' Denham and was designed to gather data on the aircraft's handling qualities and pilot control interfaces, supporting the development of the aircraft and laying the groundwork for future 'for credit' testing as part of the company's ongoing certification programme with the FAA.
“Having helped design and test flight controls for a wide variety of aircraft, including all three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, nothing compares to the simplicity and grace of the Joby aircraft,” says Denham. “After completing more than 400 vertical take offs and landings from the ground, it is a privilege to sit in the cockpit of our aircraft and experience first-hand the ease and intuitive nature of the design that the Joby team has developed.”
During the testing, Joby pilots assessed the ease of conducting a number of tasks and manoeuvres that pilots will be required to perform during normal operations, including vertical take offs, accelerating and transitioning to forward flight, runway centreline tracking and decelerating to a vertical landing on a representative landing pad. Evaluation of these mission task elements will support the certification of the Joby aircraft as well as the company's ongoing work with the US Department of Defense.
Denham joined Joby in 2019 after retiring from Naval Air Systems Command where he was an Esteemed Technical Fellow focused on the research, development, test and evaluation of advanced flight controls and flight dynamics for a wide variety of aircraft. He led the research and development of the Unified Control Concept, a joint US and UK project that was successfully integrated into the F-35B STOVL aircraft. Subsequently, he pioneered a new flight control concept for aircraft carrier landings, called Precision Landing Modes, that dramatically increased touchdown precision, lowered pilot workload and increased safety for carrier landings on the US Navy's F/A-18E/F/G and F-35C aircraft. His experience on both of these advanced programmes has been instrumental in the development of the Joby aircraft flight controls.
Joby will locate its first scaled aircraft manufacturing facility in Dayton, Ohio, producing up to 500 aircraft per year.