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Opener rebrands to Pivotal, unveils new Helix production eVTOL aircraft

By Jen Nevans | October 5, 2023

Estimated reading time 6 minutes, seconds.

California-based eVTOL developer Opener has unveiled the company’s first scalable production aircraft that it calls Helix. And along with the new aircraft, comes a new identity — Opener has now been rebranded to Pivotal.

Customers can place orders for Helix starting in January 2024. The aircraft retails for a starting price of $190,000. Pivotal Image

“With Helix, we become the leading manufacturer of light eVTOL aircraft,” said Ken Karklin, Pivotal’s CEO. “Helix presents the next iteration of 10-plus years of innovating, testing, and delivering on the promise to give individuals access to small, yet mighty aircraft.”

The company chose its new name to represent the pivotal step it has taken to advance its eVTOL program.  

“’Pivotal’ reflects our mission to transform movement with the power of flight,” Karklin said. “The new identity shows the versatility of our system architecture and encapsulates both the exhilaration and utility of flight.”

The company has been busy transitioning from research and development to manufacturing and very recently, to delivery. Pivotal has made that transition through its Early Access Program (EAP), which gives about a dozen selected participants a chance to purchase the firm’s BlackFly pre-production aircraft. 

Pivotal’s Helix eVTOL aircraft is the company’s fourth-generation model. Pivotal Image

“These are people who are going to acquire the aircraft, take delivery of the aircraft, fly the aircraft, and then provide us with what I would say is very intensive feedback on the entire process,” Greg Lary, head of sales and customer experience at Pivotal, told Vertical during the AIRTAXI World Congress in San Francisco, California.

Rescue specialist and eVTOL pilot Tim Lum became the first customer of BlackFly, recently showcasing the aircraft’s flight capabilities at the Pacific Airshow in Huntington Beach, California, this past weekend.

While BlackFly is exclusively available to about a dozen early access customers, starting in January 2024, interested customers can place orders for Helix, which retails for a starting price of $190,000. Deliveries are expected to start in June 2024.

Designed to comply with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Part 103 ultralight category, Helix is Pivotal’s fourth-generation eVTOL platform, geared toward adventure pilots looking to fly short recreational flights.

Pilots can fly Helix in Class G airspace over uncongested areas during the day and are not required to have a pilot’s license. But Pivotal customers must complete flight training to prepare them to safely operate the aircraft in all conditions.

Helix is designed to comply with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Part 103 ultralight category. Pivotal Image

Similar to BlackFly, Helix has a tilt-aircraft architecture. The company claims the aircraft will feature a “simple user interface, and unmatched safety based on fault tolerance and triple modular redundancy.”

The company said Helix offers power and propulsion improvements from the BlackFly model, as well as updated digital electronics, a companion smartphone app, a redesigned canopy and flight deck, and support for future field-replaceable next-generation batteries, among other features.

As for the future of Pivotal’s fleet, Lary said it’s likely the company will stick with personal eVTOL models designed under Part 103 for the foreseeable future. However, he said “the market is going to continue to drive everything that we do. Our biggest goal, and part of the reason why we took the Part 103 path, is to make that path to market and market acceptance faster than it would have been if we had to go through a type certification process.”

BlackFly is the company’s third-generation aircraft and one of the few eVTOLs flying at air shows like the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The aircraft was also showcased at the AIRTAXI World Congress vertical air show on Oct. 5.

Pivotal’s previous eVTOL models are currently on display at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California, and the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh.

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