Less than a week after it announced the postponement of its planned 2024 launch of air taxi services due in part to expected delays in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines on craft certification, Joby has received the regulator’s proposed airworthiness criteria for its electric takeoff and landing planes (eVTOL).
Late Monday the FAA released its proposal titled, “Special Class Airworthiness Criteria for the Joby Aero, Inc.,” laying out requirements for the company’s eVTOL air taxis to be approved for commercial operation. Those details are now open to comments or queries by the public or sector players, but are expected to mostly or entirely make up the final document.
That publication came just four working days after Joby officials told investors they’d decided to postpone the anticipated launch of air taxi services until 2025, due in part to the likelihood of the FAA not issuing rules on eVTOL craft until “late 2024.” Getting a look at the probable criteria it will need to meet over a year before then will presumably facilitate Joby’s work to advance its plane toward certification.
However, because Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt said internal considerations had also motivated the delay – including a “manufacturing processes (that) has been steeper than originally anticipated” – it’s unlikely the company will return to its original plans unless it manages considerable, unexpected progress in coming months.
Yet to be seen is whether receiving FAA air worthiness criteria for its eVTOL will indeed re-accelerate what previously had been swift advances in work toward certifying its future air taxis.
Also interesting to watch will be whether the FAA’s early release of airworthiness criteria specific to Joby craft will be followed by rules for certification-seeking eVTOL competitors like Wisk and Archer; or, failing those, whether other air taxi developers will ultimately be moved to follow Joby’s launch delay due to uncertainty over regulations.
Sector-wide doubts were initially created last March by the FAA’s decision to change a main criterion for how it will certify eVTOL air taxis like the one Joby is developing. That involved the regulator re-categorizing the propulsion systems of those craft to “power-lift,” thus removing them from the expected class of a small plane and closer to those of helicopters.
As a result, companies that had been working hard to develop their eVTOL vehicles toward certification found themselves facing a set of unknown requirements they’d be unable to plug in as conceptual and manufacturing changes until the FAA determines them.