The story broke on Tuesday, May 10th via Twitter. The “media-broker” was theaircurrent.com. Described as a huge scoop by co-writer Jon Ostrower, he tweeted, “The FAA is dramatically revising its approach to certifying electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, injecting new uncertainty into the certification programs of the United States’ leading eVTOL developers.”

Under the heading, FAA Changes Course on eVTOL Certification, it states, “Although the shift comes as the FAA has been broadly rebalancing its relations with industry since the 737 Max crashes exposed its insufficient oversight of Boeing’s certification programs, this recent move appears more geared toward bureaucracy than safety”.

And goes on, “Until now, developers of winged eVTOL aircraft including Joby Aviation, Archer and Beta Technologies have been proceeding on the assumption that their aircraft would be certified under the FAA’s overhaul of small airplane certification rules that took effect in 2017… Now, the FAA under new Acting Administrator Billy Nolen is reversing course… a stunning development that appears to have largely caught the industry off guard.”

Adding, “While the full implications of the shift are unclear, it is likely to rattle investors who had believed that the FAA was working in harmony with industry to provide eVTOL aircraft with a clear route to certification…”

Briefly, eVTOL companies have been working toward certification under FAR Part 23 for light aircraft. Now, the FAA says it plans to issue type certificates for these aircraft in the powered-lift category under its “special class” process. Unfortunately, this tantalising story ends there due to a paywall asking for USD299 annual subscription or USD99 quarterly to read the complete article.

Social media jumped on the story, primarily attracting the anti-evtol’ites’ in their hope this might be the death-knoll of the emerging industry. “Death Traps” tweeted JLB, while SPeitsch went one step further. “It would be so lovely if this garbage would be banned. These are just vehicles to give the rich another way to not have to interact with the unwashed masses.”

Not surprisingly, there were some genuine concerns from the pro-eVTOL lobby who questioned the authenticity of the information. This led the other co-writer, Elan Head, to tweet, “Here are some more details about the scoop for those who haven’t made it behind the paywall yet. Two key points: 1/ This is not about safety and 2) Yes, the FAA is serious about this.”

As the news hit social media, flyingmag.com posted a contrary piece stating, “The FAA says it is modifying its regulatory approach to certificating eVTOL aircraft, a move the agency says will not add delays to completing type certification… as it works to ensure minimal disruption to certification timelines.”

The online site continues, “The FAA said it now plans to certify eVTOLs as powered-lift aircraft—an existing category—and, in the “long term,” develop additional powered-lift regulations “to safely enable innovation” for “operations and pilot training.”

Two days later, Head posted the full version of the FAA statement provided to @theaircurrent saying, “To clarify, I shared the full statement because some media outlets have received a *cough* less complete one.” She emphasised, “FAA has not indicated to us that anything in their original statement has changed.”

FAA Full Statement

flyingmag.com then published an article, written by experienced aviation journalist, Thom Patterson, who quoted Joby Founder and CEO, JoeBen Bevirt, from that day’s company quarterly earnings conference call.

Under the article heading: No Type Certification Delays Expected from FAA’s Modified Approach, Patterson writes, “(Bevirt said) As a result of the FAA’s modified regulatory approach to type certification. Joby expects no delays. We remain on track to meet our operational goals and spending guidance for the year.”

And after the CEO noted the FAA had said “all development work” done by current eVTOL type certification applicants “remains valid” in the wake of the FAAs regulatory comments, he remarked, “We are in active conversations with them about the most expedient route to certifying our aircraft.”

Patterson then quotes Joby’s Executive Chairman, Paul Sciarra. “I think that, fundamentally, the approach the FAA is taking here is mostly an administrative reclassification on the type certification side of things. There’s certainly no adjustments to our guidance as a result.”

Company officials then pointed out the FAA had accepted “close to 80 percent” of its means of compliance toward type certification, with one area specific plan (ASCP) “approved and two others submitted for review”.

Didier Papadopoulos, Head of Joby Programs and Systems, emphasised during the call, “We are on target, on plan.” And Bonny Simi, Head of Air Operations and People added, “The company is beginning to reach the execution phase of the process with our Part 135 operation certification.”

For Joby intends to run an on-demand air taxi service as an airline. Completion of the fourth of five stages in the process is expected during Q2 of this year. Simi continued, “Followed shortly thereafter by the fifth and final stage culminating in formal approval of our 135 certificate.”

JoeBen Bevirt

Joby officially began its type certification process in 2018 and the company says it remains on track for FAA type certification in time for its eVTOL to enter service in 2024.

Charles Alcock from futurefllight.aero, then confirmed the above, publishing a news piece the following day headed: Joby Sees No Delay to Approval of EVTOL Aircraft From FAA Rule Changes.