Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft company Joby Aviation has reached a significant milestone in its testing programme as four pilots have now flown the prototype craft for the first time. 

Joby’s flight test team has taken to the air over the company’s Pilot Production Facility in Marina, California, to complete a series of initial tests of its electric air taxi. 

Chief Test Pilot James “Buddy” Denham led the pilot’s on-board testing campaign and described the aircraft as flying with “simplicity and grace”.  

Denham said: “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.” 

The programme has seen the four pilots carry out a range of manoeuvres to emulate the day-to-day operations of the aircraft once it enters service, such as free thrustborne hovers and forward transitions to semi-thrustborne flight. 

Alongside testing the aircraft’s capabilities, the programme also sets up later “for credit” testing that will support Joby’s certification with the Federal Aviation Administration and its ongoing work with the US Department of Defence.

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Though the recent flights mark the first time Joby’s eVTOL aircraft has been flown by an onboard pilot, the company has also been conducting a series of remotely piloted tests since it received an FAA permit in July

Testing has also been taking place at the Edwards Air Force Base in California, where both Joby and US Air Force pilots will use the eVTOL aircraft in “realistic operating scenarios”. 

While its aircraft continues development and testing, Joby has continued to gear up for commercial sales with the announcement of its $500m 140-acre factory at Dayton International Airport in Ohio, with plans to produce up to 500 aircraft a year.