Joby cites momentum toward type certification despite FAA curveball

Avatar for Ben ForrestBy Ben Forrest | August 15, 2022

Estimated reading time 9 minutes, 58 seconds.

Joby Aviation said it has maintained momentum toward type certification of its piloted four-passenger eVTOL despite an apparent curveball from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the company is still targeting a launch of service in 2024.

Joby
Joby Aviation told shareholders it is still progressing toward type certification for its eVTOL aircraft, with the aim of launching services in 2024. Joby Aviation Image

“We continue to spend wisely, and we remain well capitalized and well positioned to achieve our goals,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby, during a recent second-quarter earnings call.

The FAA recently advised eVTOL companies they would follow a Part 21.17(b) powered-lift certification framework rather than the planned Part 23 small aircraft framework, he said.

But he added the FAA also stressed it does not believe the change will affect certification timelines, and told Joby it would be granted credit for work to date.

Under the new regulatory framework, Joby signed a revised G-1 Certification Basis with the FAA this summer, replacing a previous agreement it had signed in 2020.

The G-1 Certification Basis provides specific airworthiness and environmental standards required for type certification with the FAA.

Joby has revised the work it had previously completed under the old regulatory framework, and 75% of that revised means of compliance work has been accepted by the FAA, as well as three area-specific certification plans (ASCPs) — both significant milestones in its path to certification.

“We do see some benefit from the change,” Bevirt said. “With the revised certification path, we have reaffirmed our aircraft is the right design for the market and for the regulation. Of course, there is still work to be done to define how the rules for operating our aircraft will work under the revised approach. But the FAA has also committed to making sure these will be ready for us, drawing on both existing helicopter and airplane rules.”

Part 135 approval well ahead of schedule

Joby began the second quarter on a high note, with approval of its Part 135 air carrier certificate from the FAA in May, several months ahead of schedule.

The Part 135 certificate is required for Joby to operate its aircraft commercially, and is the first of three FAA approvals required to operate Joby’s air taxi service in the U.S.

Additional required approvals include a type certificate that approves the aircraft design, and a production certificate that approves the manufacturing process.

Joby said the first stage of the five-stage type certification process is “for all intents and purposes,” complete. Stage 2 is also progressing well under the new regulatory framework.

Stage 3 requires translating the means of compliance into certification plans that detail the exact testing and analysis Joby intends to perform, said Didier Papadopoulos, head of aircraft development and manufacturing.

“This is where most of our recent effort has been focused,” he said, noting aircraft certification programs are often in multiple stages of the process simultaneously.

“It’s possible to begin work on the next stage before receiving FAA sign-off on the previous one, and that’s exactly what we do at Joby,” he said. “We always want to be ready for the next stage before it happens, to minimize the time it takes for the overall process.”

In July, the company said it became the first eVTOL company to apply for foreign validation of an FAA type certificate, asking that its U.S.-based certification be concurrently validated by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority.

Joby intends to begin operations in the U.K. shortly after its launch in the U.S.

U.S. Air Force contract expands

Joby also announced it has expanded its existing contract with the U.S. Air Force Agility Prime program, increasing the contract’s potential value to more than $75 million.

The contract broadens Joby’s defense partnerships to include the U.S. Marine Corps, which will participate in government-directed flight tests and use case exploration, the company said.

Possible use cases include resupply, relocation of personnel, and emergency medical response.

“This work also provides us with meaningful opportunities to build up our operational capabilities and deploy our aircraft into service prior to commercial certification, which we think is important, given there are elements of certification that are outside of our control,” Bevirt said.

In 2020, Joby said it became the first eVTOL developer to receive military airworthiness approval for its pre-production prototype aircraft. Joby has designed the aircraft to have a maximum range of 150 miles (241 kilometers) and top speeds of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour).

The expansion of Joby’s contract means the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have all identified eVTOL aircraft as a “critical area of interest,” the company said in a release.

Q2 financial results

Joby reported a net loss of US$49.6 million in the second quarter of 2022, reflecting a loss from operations of US$99.4 million, partly offset by other income of US$49.8 million.

The net loss in Q2 was US$15.4 million lower than in the same period a year ago, Joby said in a letter to shareholders, but operating expenses were higher.

“We remain well capitalized, with US$1.2 billion in cash and short-term marketable securities as of the end of the second quarter to support our continued progress on certification, manufacturing and early operations,” said Matthew Field, chief financial officer of Joby.

As of June 2022, Joby had more than 1,300 employees, including 80 from Avionyx, the Costa Rica-based aerospace software engineering it acquired in May to bolster its type certification program.

Joby also reported progress on manufacturing its first production-intent aircraft, with construction of the tail section complete and assembly of the wing and fuselage well underway.

“You can’t test what you can’t build,” Papadopoulos said. “And we don’t believe anybody else is in this position today — consistently building parts that are designed for a production aircraft, confirming the manufacturability of our designs, and defining test procedures to begin internal validation and for-credit testing.”

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2 Comments

  1. Totally unrealistic certification schedule. A radical unproven design. The FAA should require thousands of hours of testing in real world environments. This is aviation, people die for the simplest oversight or error. Financially how could this 4 place aircraft that is going to cost over a billion dollars to design and build be profitable?

  2. The proposed ‘vertiports’ shown on Uber elevate (now Joby) require approaches to elevated pads shedding much turbulence downwind during the sensitive transition phase –flight path crowding onto these marginal facilities will add to ‘difficulties’ not to mention gustiness and weather, visibility and marginal flight duration made worse by headwinds and low cruise speeds . A satisfactory experience base will indeed be needed before turning them loose on the public , Schmidt is correct .

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