Former Airbus chief executive Tom Enders is putting his full support behind a German start-up developing a new urban air mobility concept after joining the company’s board.
Munich-based start-up Lilium is developing an electric VTOL five-seater air taxi, which achieved its first phase of flight testing in late 2019.
The emissions-free aircraft will be able to complete journeys of up to 300 km in one hour on a single charge and is being developed to enter the regional mobility market by 2025.
Writing on a blog post, Enders said that while the idea of air taxis is not new, only now are all the conditions in place to turn the vision into a technical and economic reality.
“The time is right for electric air taxis: emissions-free and low-noise flight over distances of several hundred kilometres,” he said.
Here’s what Tom Enders had to say in his blog post:
“Perhaps the thing that has impressed me most about Lilium was that they started with a strong business case and focused from the start on intercity shuttle flights, which allow for higher passenger load factors. I believe with this Lilium is solving the problem of notoriously low load-factors in on-demand air-taxi businesses of the past. It will also help to get ticket prices down and truly democratise electric flight, following Lilium’s mission.
“Furthermore, the young founding engineers had the courage to come up with a technical concept that is tailored for their business model and purposefully different to traditional VTOL solutions. Although it is technically more challenging, they are using electric turbo fans with acoustic liners and have solved the associated engineering challenges.
“This is the same propulsion system that propels 95% of all commercial airliners today and it gives Lilium the same advantages: lower noise emissions than open propellers, higher customer acceptance, and a smaller aircraft footprint. This same propulsion system will also allow for larger VTOL aircraft, with more seats, while still being permitted to land in urban areas with minimal noise and space requirements. Low noise and high seat capacity are crucial to get market access and economics right.
“Probably no other aviation start-up has worked as closely with the European safety and certification authority EASA in recent years as Lilium. This fact, more than anything else, underlines the great seriousness and professionalism with which Lilium has prepared for the development and scale-production of its novel aircraft.
“Lastly, Lilium has also been able to attract very respectable partners for its production and flight operations, a dedicated investor base, and an international management team with seniority and aerospace experience that is unrivalled. Some of the best people I’ve met in my career are working at Lilium.
“Today, Lilium is on its way from visionary start-up to serious aircraft manufacturer and service provider. This is a rocky and by no means risk-free road.
“But how are we going to move aviation forward if not with fresh ideas and courageous young entrepreneurs? The history of aviation is full of so-called experts and doubters who declared back then that everything that we see flying today would be impossible or impractical.
“What I have learned in three decades in the aviation industry, I am happy to bring to Lilium. Our industry needs nothing so much as innovation and new perspectives. That’s the only way we can maintain and renew our license to fly.”