Two months after the Federal Aviation Administration published its draft rules for powered-lift pilot certification and operations, industry has made it clear that the Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) as written poses significant challenges for the electric vertical take-off and landing industry. But the SFAR only applies to a subset of the eVTOL models currently in development — and opinions vary on whether that’s a good or a bad thing for the ones that are left out.
The powered-lift rulemaking is a direct consequence of the FAA’s abrupt decision last year to certify winged eVTOLs as special class powered-lift aircraft, rather than as Part 23 small airplanes with special conditions as originally planned. However, eVTOLs without wings — such as Volocopter’s VoloCity — were always destined for the special class process. Because they aren’t addressed in the powered-lift SFAR, the pilot training requirements and operating rules that will apply to these aircraft in the U.S. are still unclear.
Volocopter is optimistic that the VoloCity, as a special class rotorcraft, will be able to fit into the existing regulatory framework for helicopters, with specific exemptions negotiated where necessary. Yet, another multicopter developer, Alakai Technologies, said that without specific rules for special class rotorcraft, such eVTOLs will be prohibited from operating in the national airspace system, making powered-lift models “the only practical [advanced air mobility] technology available in the market.”
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