FAA To Add Powered-lift Aircraft to Air Carrier Category

 - November 22, 2022, 11:43 AM
Archer's four-passenger Midnight eVTOL aircraft is among the new powered-lift aircraft that the FAA is now seeking to include in its regulatory framework for commercial operations. (Photo: Archer Aviation)

The FAA is proposing changes to its definitions covering air carriers to create scope for including new powered-lift aircraft such as eVTOL models in existing operational rules. On November 21, the agency issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) covering changes allowing it to determine on what terms powered-lift aircraft that can’t be categorized as airplanes or rotorcraft could be regulated for air carrier operations, including scheduled airline services and on-demand charter.

According to the FAA, the revised definitions represent “an important step toward making commercial air taxi operations a reality,” and it will allow 60 days for industry comments after the NRPM appears in the Federal Register. “This powered-lift definitions rule lays that foundation that will allow operators to use powered-lift aircraft,” the agency said. “This is important because our regulations have to cover powered-lift aircraft for them to be able to operate commercially.”

In tandem with this initiative, the FAA is also developing rules for certifying pilots for powered-lift aircraft and new operational requirements. It said these proposed rules should be published in the summer of 2023 and will be finalized in time for the first eVTOL aircraft to complete type certification.

Last week, FAA acting Administrator Billy Nolen indicated that eVTOL commercial operations could start in early 2025, which tallies with the expectations of several eVTOL manufacturers, including Joby and Archer. Major commercial carriers including United Airlines and American Airlines have plans to operate four-passenger eVTOL aircraft to carry customers to and from hub airports.

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