Sustainability in the Air
Sustainability In The Air
Archer’s vision for safe, affordable, and accessible eVTOL travel

Archer’s vision for safe, affordable, and accessible eVTOL travel

In this episode, we talk to Billy Nolen, Chief Safety Officer at Archer Aviation.

In this episode of our ’Sustainability in the Air’ podcast, Billy Nolen, Chief Safety Officer at Archer Aviation, speaks with SimpliFlying CEO Shashank Nigam and shares Archer’s vision of making eVTOLs accessible and affordable. Nolen recently joined Archer after a distinguished career at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), bringing with him a wealth of experience in aviation safety and regulation.

Nolen provides an in-depth look at Archer’s progress in certifying their eVTOL aircraft, Midnight, for commercial passenger service. He outlines the rigorous FAA certification process, and expresses confidence in Archer’s timeline, which expects to enter service in 2025.

Here are the key highlights of the conversation:

  • Archer’s journey through the FAA certification process (2:05)

  • Safety regulations, certification, and the rigorous standards applied to eVTOL aircraft (6:07)

  • Collaborating with established aerospace partners to facilitate certification and reduce risk (13:33)

  • Addressing concerns about electric aviation (15:30)

  • Infrastructure and route planning for eVTOL operations (31:30)

  • Creating public awareness and building confidence in eVTOLs (37:20)

  • Rapid Fire! (44:17)

Keep reading for a quick overview of the episode.

Why aircraft certification matters for eVTOLs

Aircraft certification is a critical milestone for any aviation company, and it is especially crucial for eVTOL manufacturers like Archer. Certification demonstrates that an aircraft meets the stringent safety standards set by regulatory authorities, such as the FAA.

For eVTOL companies, achieving certification is essential to gaining public trust and confidence in this new mode of transportation. It also opens the door to commercial operations, allowing companies like Archer to begin generating revenue and scaling their business.

“What I say is once we come out the other side, once the FAA certifies Archer Midnight, it will be as certifiably safe as climbing on board a Boeing 787 or an Airbus A350.”

5 takeaways from Archer’s journey as a leading eVTOL company

1. Archer’s certification process

Nolen provides a detailed overview of Archer’s progress in the FAA certification process for their Midnight eVTOL aircraft.

  • The company has already received the G-1 certification basis, which outlines the airworthiness and safety criteria that must be met.

  • Archer has also submitted their means of compliance to the FAA, demonstrating how they plan to satisfy these criteria through various testing and analysis methods.

  • The next step involves finalising the certification plan and beginning the second phase of flight testing with fully conforming production aircraft.

“We’re working in concert, coordination, and in partnership with FAA in their oversight role to make sure that out the other side Archer Midnight comes to market as one of the safest modes of transportation out there.”

2. Addressing concerns about electric aviation

Addressing common concerns surrounding electric aviation, such as range limitations and battery safety, Nolen explains that Archer’s Midnight eVTOL is designed specifically for urban air mobility missions, with a range optimised for short, intra-city trips.

The aircraft’s rapid charging capabilities ensure quick turnaround times between flights, mitigating range concerns. For battery safety, Nolen emphasises the multiple layers of redundancy and protection built into Midnight’s battery system, designed to prevent accidents such as those caused by thermal runaway (extreme overheating in layman's terms).

“Batteries have come a long way and they continue to evolve and improve at the rate of about 5-7% per year. The public will rightfully question — ‘What’s your battery design like? And is it safe?’ …We’ve designed six battery packs in the wings between each set of engines and we’ve got a proprietary battery management system.”

3. Collaborating with established aerospace partners

To expedite the certification process and ensure the highest levels of safety and reliability, Archer has strategically partnered with established aerospace suppliers such as Garmin, Honeywell, and Safran. These partnerships allow Archer to incorporate proven, certified components into their eVTOL design, reducing risk and facilitating a smoother path to certification.

Nolen underscores the importance of these collaborations, as they bring a wealth of experience and credibility to the table, bolstering confidence among regulators and the public alike.

“We decided we didn’t want to do everything ourselves. That adds a complexity because you’ve got to convince the regulators about everything you do... Where we can partner we’ve done so and part of that is not only so we could get to market faster and safer with phenomenal design… But it also gives the regulator that sense of comfort because those folks, you know, are already known entities.”

4. Infrastructure and Route Planning

The success of eVTOL operations depends on the development of appropriate infrastructure and the establishment of efficient routes.

Archer is actively collaborating with airports, local governments, and regulatory authorities to identify suitable locations for vertiports and charging stations. By leveraging existing helicopter routes and working with air traffic control systems, Archer aims to seamlessly integrate eVTOL operations into the existing aviation ecosystem.

“The story I like to tell is that I was going to a Wall Street Journal event and I landed in the morning in Newark at 5:30. I was curb side by 6:30. I get into my Uber and an hour and 15 minutes later, I was in Tribeca. That’s not very far! I can do that trip in about 7-10 minutes in an eVTOL! So the use case has been made. What we have to now do is the work in close partnership and collaboration with airport authorities, city authorities and state officials.”

5. Creating public awareness

Public acceptance is key to the success of eVTOL technology. As with any new mode of transportation, there may be initial scepticism and misconceptions about safety, reliability, and practicality, says Nolen.

Archer recognises the importance of educating the public about the benefits of eVTOL travel and addressing any concerns they may have. Nolen emphasises the need for increased visibility of eVTOL aircraft through extensive flight testing and public demonstrations, which will help normalise the concept of urban air mobility.

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‘Sustainability in the Air’ is the world’s leading podcast dedicated to sustainable aviation. Through in-depth conversations with top aviation leaders, we break through the clutter and provide a clear roadmap for a net-zero future.

Sustainability in the Air
Sustainability In The Air
Every week, Shashank Nigam, the CEO of SimpliFlying, talks to airline, airport, travel and technology executives to help make sense of the many paths to net zero, for an industry that is one of the hardest to decarbonize.
Whether you're a frequent flier, an airline executive or just love travelling, if you care about sustainable global travel, then welcome aboard.