Daniel Martinez Garbuno SIMPLE FLYING
FAA And UK’s CAA Will Collaborate Towards eVTOL Certification
March 3, 2022
  • Share
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States and the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are engaged in discussions focused on facilitating the certification process for new electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

    The eVTOL future

    eVTOL and other Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aircraft have an undeniable potential in the near future. From Embraer and Airbus to Vertical Aerospace, many companies are developing the eVTOL technology right now, with the ambitions of deploying the first operational units in the air before the decade ends.

    According to data provided by Air Insight, companies developing eVTOL aircraft have signed commitments to deliver 3,616 units in the coming years.

    The rapid development of this new technology is putting pressure on governments around the world. Last month, Brazil’s Civil Aviation National Authority (ANAC, in Portuguese) and Embraer formalized a process to get Eve its aircraft type certificate.

    Today, the FAA and CAA issued a statement on eVTOL aircraft. They stated,

    “To support future eVTOL aircraft development and operation, the US and UK civil aviation authorities are engaged in a range of bilateral and multilateral discussions focused on facilitating certification and validating new eVTOL aircraft, production, continued airworthiness, operations, and personnel licensing.”

    The development of eVTOLs

    Advanced Air Mobility and eVTOL aircraft are a collection of new and emerging technologies in the existing aviation system. According to the FAA and CAA, “to streamline and expedite integration, this technology should use existing regulatory frameworks on which that strong safety record is founded.”

    For eVTOLs to operate commercially at scale, they previously need to obtain three core aviation regulatory approvals. These are type certification, production certification, and operational authorities.

    Type certifications are the regulatory approval of the airworthiness of a design and are the first step for commercialization. Many companies are currently in this phase, according to a study made by Baker McKenzie.

    Production certification will allow mass production of a particular eVTOL. It is granted after a manufacturer can demonstrate that it can produce units while meeting the standards of a type certificate.

    Finally, additional operational requirements and authorizations are required to operate eVTOLs commercially, transporting passengers or cargo.

    What is the FAA doing at the moment?

    The FAA is currently working to adapt existing aviation regulations to accommodate the eVTOL technology. “As these aircraft enter into the aviation ecosystem, we must continue to maintain the high safety standards that the public expects.”

    According to Baker McKenzie, the FAA is developing a draft policy and guidance for eVTOL type certification. There are two existing certification processes that could be used for eVTOL technology. Part 21.17(a) involves the designation of applicable airworthiness standards when the aircraft “closely matches the characteristics of a particular airplane or rotorcraft class,” along with special conditions to address any differences.

    Meanwhile, Part 21.17(b) is used for special classes of aircraft; the FAA applies airworthiness requirements derived from other regulations and other criteria it may help to provide an equivalent level of safety.

    The FAA is deciding whether to use Part 21.17(a) or Part 21.17(b). Given the unique design of the eVTOL technology, Baker McKenzie believes type certification under Part 21.17(b) could offer the developing companies more flexibility. Moreover, as the technology evolves in the future, for example, with the use of automation, future eVTOL concepts could require further changes to the type certification process.

    The certification process for eVTOL aircraft worldwide is only just starting. Regulators and companies will face new challenges during this process, which is why some current timetables (for example, Vertical Aerospace’s hope to have a certification by 2024) seem a little too optimistic.