British air taxi manufacturer Vertical Aerospace has announced that the prototype of its five-seat VX4 eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft took off for the very first time the last weekend. The British Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) had previously granted the company a “Permit to Fly” to test the VX4.
Piloted by Vertical Aerospace’s chief test pilot Justin Plaines, the eight electric motor-powered aircraft took off from the ground only briefly before landing again. The aircraft’s maiden take-off saw the eight sets of aerodynamic propellers lift the aircraft from the ground at hover-thrust while tethered to the ground for safety.
According to the company, it became the first British company to start flight tests with a new aircraft in over 20 years with its full-scale, piloted prototype. The maiden flight marks the start of the intensive flight test program of the eVTOL. The program is expected to continue for several months, completing different stages, which will involve reaching higher altitudes and speeds and demonstrating the transition from vertical to horizontal forward flight.
The permit and the positive results of these early tests allow the teams at Vertical to progress confidently on their mission to certify the VX4 by 2025. The VX4 aircraft is expected to carry four passengers in addition to a pilot and fly at a cruising speed of around 150 mph (240 km/h) with a top speed of 200 mph (322 km/h). It is projected to be capable of traversing distances of over 100 miles (over 160 km) while producing minimal noise and zero operating emissions.
The aircraft has a separate baggage compartment, space for baggage next to each seat, twelve propellers, a high wing, a V-tail, retractable tricycle wheeled landing gear, and is 100% electric. The VX4 eVTOL aircraft can achieve noise levels that are 30 times quieter than the equivalent helicopter, the company says.
Vertical Aerospace says it has already received more than 1,400 conditional pre-orders from some of the world’s leading airlines, operators, and tourist groups, including Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Air Asia. And the industrial partners of the project include Microsoft, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Solvay, Leonardo, and Honeywell.