At Farnborough last month, apart from the myriad of exhibitor trade stands, there were the all-important discussion Forums.

For example, under the Aerospace Global Forum (AGF) banner, over the five days (July 18th-22nd), close to 40 different discussions each comprising of 4 or more panellists, on a wide variety of aviation-related topics, took place.

One that stood out from the urban air mobility sector occurred on the Tuesday (July 19th). The discourse which began at 1.20pm and lasted 50 minutes was entitled: “Tech Innovation and Bringing AAM From Promise To Reality.”

Moderated by the very capable Elan Head of aircurrent.com, the panellists were Matheu Parr, Customer Business Director, Rolls-Royce; Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines; Alastair McIntosh, CTO of Lilium; and David Shilliday, Vice-President, General Manager of Power Systems at Honeywell.

evtolinsights.com interviewed Alastair McIntosh in early June, so there was an immediate attraction to this particular Forum.

In fact, McIntosh dominated proceedings. Not only is he an impressive and experienced speaker assisted by a pleasing, mild and lyrical Scottish accent, but comes over as an erudite and highly knowledgable Chief Technology Officer. McIntosh is a man in the right place at the right time, working for the appropriate eVTOL company. No wonder he is so enthused about leading Lilium from the front.

His strong introduction affirmed the company’s mission. “We are bringing to life sustained high speed air mobility in the regional sector. Our aim is to make this real. Lilium is grounded in reality, where we have pulled together a great team and are building an ecosystem that’s alive and happening.”

McIntosh then goes on, “We are focused on safety, simplicity and scalability. The technology is quite straight-forward. There are three big nuggets to it. Flight control laws, the energy system, and the ducted electric vector thrust embed electrical engines on the rear flaps of the wings. We are building on a dream based around a regimented, orchestrated and regulated reality.”

Topics discussed in the first half of the Forum include the decisive regulatory challenges that eVTOL companies face (Lilium has been engaging with EASA since 2017), where McIntosh points out the European regulator, themselves, are on a learning curve to form regulations “fit for purpose.”

He comments, “While this is a new aviation sector, regulators usually begin with regulations they know and love from days gone by like Part 23, 25 and 27.” Then adds, “Yet if you take traditional approaches for eVTOL, you will kill it.” McIntosh ends with an optimistic view. “I believe there has been a regulatory shift in recent months where the FAA is aligning more with EASA on the certification process. This can only be a good thing.”

David Shilliday jumps in and says the pace of innovation is happening so quickly that while the eVTOL technology is almost there, the rest of the ecosystem needs to catch-up. He later points out the various challenges the industry must overcome like customer acceptance and passenger price points and then airs his concerns over the cost of maintenance and the construction of vertiports being more expensive than presently planned for.

McIntosh continues to take the floor as the conversation shifts to eVTOL business partnerships, the supply chain and electrical/battery technologies.

Alastair McIntosh Talking to David Boulter of the FAA, at Lilium’s Farnborough Stand

He says the industry is greatly benefitting from collaborations with both the automotive world and traditional big names of aerospace, but also points out the necessity to interact with smaller, cutting edge companies.

The weight and shape of an eVTOL is then discussed and how important these factors are. McIntosh describes the flexibility of the Lilium Jet, where it can be a four-seater luxury jet; a six seater shuttle; or when all the seats are taken out, a capable cargo carrier.

The panel agree the public require little convincing of the new industry. Matheu Parr mentions the EASA survey from last year. 83% of those surveyed offered a positive response to urban air mobility. Mark Thomas then points out that both safety and low noise are keys to the industry’s success.

While all endorse, 2025 is a pivotal year for the eVTOL industry, problems with the supply chain along with the need to develop further, electrical and battery system technologies, remains paramount.

At the end there are some good questions from the audience including Jenny Beechener of unmannedairspace.com, who asks about the city infrastructure problems that may lie ahead due to the traditional perceptions of authorities.

Lilium was Busy throughout the Farnborough Week

Elan Head ends the Forum by asking each panellist how they foresee their company at Farnborough’s International Airshow in two years time. McIntosh hopes Lilium will be well on the way to gaining full certification in 2025 and Shilliday anticipates it should be easier to gain more flight routes, where new battery and fuel cell technology developments can extend the travel range and duration of eVTOL aircraft.

The video of this Forum is well worth a viewing.

Watch Video Recording of Discussion

https://eu-webapp.spotme.com/3694eec923040c1d8acf5b3628f2b08e/view/l6bzga9p-7uoiey/cbd4b0f1-ee15-47d1-b319-1c0edb80e657

(Pics: Lilium)