Getting real with Archer Aviation on eVTOL certification

A candid conversation with Archer’s leaders on the challenges of bringing eVTOLs to market

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Release Date
March 27, 2024
Getting real with Archer Aviation on eVTOL certification

When Archer Aviation declared in February that it had entered the final phase of type certification for its Midnight aircraft, many industry observers did a double take. The California-based electric vertical take-off and landing developer has not yet transitioned to wing-borne flight with its full-scale prototype aircraft; neither has it flown Midnight with a pilot on board. How, then, could it be in the final stage of certification, which has typically been associated with for-credit flight testing by the Federal Aviation Administration?

The answer, as Archer explained in its Feb. 26 shareholder letter and earnings call, is that it considers the final phase of certification to be what the FAA describes as the “implementation phase” in its own model of the type certification process. This lengthy stage of certification concludes with FAA for-credit flight tests of the completed aircraft, but along the way encompasses many inspections and tests of constituent materials and parts. While the implementation phase is indeed the final phase before issuance of a type certificate, describing it as such doesn’t necessarily help investors understand where Archer is on its path to a commercial product.

Related: TAC Explains: What is conformity in aircraft certification?

It was in search of greater clarity on this point that The Air Current recently connected with Archer CEO Adam Goldstein and Chief Operating Officer Tom Muniz for a frank and wide-ranging conversation on certification, messaging, and the pros and cons of Archer’s industrial strategy. Over the course of around 90 minutes, Goldstein and Muniz described their eVTOL certification plans in detail, balancing some familiar talking points with a more nuanced discussion of the associated challenges and risks. The picture that emerged was of an ambitious startup with an undeniably aggressive timeline, but also a more realistic approach to certification than skeptics might infer from its bluster.

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Muniz. “None of this is easy. It’s just we picked the strategy that, based off my experience, I think has the lowest risk of getting to market, and that’s what everything is about.”

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