The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says it is investigating the February 16 crash of a Joby Aviation air taxi prototype in Jolon, California.
The experimental air taxi was being piloted remotely when it went down during a flight at the company’s test base on Wednesday. According to a preliminary report by the FAA, no injuries have been reported.
Joby revealed the incident in an 8K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, stating:
Safety is a core value for Joby, which is why we have been expanding our flight envelope with a remote pilot and in an uninhabited area, especially as we operate outside expected operating conditions. Experimental flight-test programs are intentionally designed to determine the limits of aircraft performance, and accidents are unfortunately a possibility. We will be supporting the relevant authorities in investigating the accident thoroughly.
While Joby hasn’t officially revealed the cause of the accident, flight tracking data shows that the air taxi prototype N542AJ was being pushed over 270 mph (435 km/h) at the time of the crash – well beyond the aircraft’s advertised top speed of 200 mph (322 km/h).
And this, New Atlas reports, is consistent with FAA certification test procedures which require prototypes to fly at around 1.3 times their “never exceed” speed.
It’s worth mentioning that, only a few weeks ago, Joby had received the FAA special airworthiness certification and US Air Force airworthiness approval for an additional test aircraft. The prototype that has crashed is the older one.
The unfortunate incident may have dashed the company’s hope to double its test capacity in 2022, let’s not forget that Joby it is still well ahead of its competitors in the eVTOL market. The company began flying full-scale prototypes in 2017 and has completed more than 1,000 flight tests to date.
More specifically, the prototype involved in Wednesday’s accident had flown more than 5,300 miles in 2021 alone, generating 65 terabytes of critical test data. That aircraft had also completed what is believed to be the longest flight of an eVTOL vehicle to date – 154.6 miles on a single charge.
Joby stands by its aim to launch commercial air taxi services in 2024.