Joby Aviation, Inc a company developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial passenger service announced it has expanded its flight test program to include flying with a pilot on board the aircraft, a critical step on the company’s journey 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.
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.”
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.
Denham joined Joby in 2019 after retiring from Naval Air Systems Command where he was an Esteemed Technical Fellow focused on the research, development, test, and evaluation of advanced flight controls and flight dynamics for a wide variety of aircraft. He led the research and development of the Unified Control Concept — a joint U.S. and U.K. project — that was successfully integrated into the F-35B STOVL aircraft. Subsequently, he pioneered a new flight control concept for aircraft carrier landings, called Precision Landing Modes that dramatically increased touchdown precision, lowered pilot workload and increased safety for carrier landings on the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F/G and F-35C aircraft. His experience on both of these advanced programs has been instrumental in the development of the Joby aircraft flight controls.
Joby recently announced it will locate its first scaled aircraft manufacturing facility in Dayton, Ohio, the birthplace of aviation, producing up to 500 aircraft per year.