Joby Aviation has begun flying its eVTOL aircraft with a pilot onboard, a critical step on the company’s progress towards commercial operations.
Four members of Joby’s flight test team have now piloted flights on board the company’s pre-production prototype aircraft, completing a series of initial tests that included free thrustborne hovers and forward transitions to semi-thrustborne flight.
The testing took place at the company’s Pilot Production Facility in Marina, CA and complements ongoing flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base announced in September, where both Joby and U.S. Air Force pilots will demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities in realistic operating scenarios.
During the testing, Joby pilots assessed the ease of conducting a number of tasks and maneuvers that pilots will be required to perform during normal operations, including vertical takeoffs, accelerating and transitioning to forward flight, runway centerline tracking, and decelerating to a vertical landing on a representative landing pad. Evaluation of these mission task elements (MTEs) will support the certification of the Joby aircraft as well as the company’s ongoing work with the Department of Defense.
To date, the majority of Joby’s flight testing has been piloted remotely from a ground control station (GCS), using state-of-the-art 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 program with the Federal Aviation Administration (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,” said 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.”