Episode 59. A reality check on eVTOL aircraft, with Elan Head

Elan HeadThe headlines about eVTOL aircraft are optimistic right now, but veteran aviation reporter Elan Head says there’s a lot of work to be done: "the customers don't really exist." In this episode, she dives deep into the world of advanced air mobility, including the current state of the market, what military applications might look like, and what the drone industry can teach eVTOL companies about FAA certification. Elan is also an experienced helicopter instructor, so she talks about what the industry should learn from the Kobe Bryant crash and why Safety Management Systems are overrated. In the Ready to Copy segment, she tells us her prediction for when eVTOLs will really be flying, the strangest helicopter she’s ever flown, and the best place to visit in Belize.

Quotes:

  • eVTOL companies: “The industry is in the process of doing the hard work to get their aircraft to market.”
  • Who will use urban air mobility: “The customers don’t really exist. A lot of this is speculating that there’s going to be this brand new market for vertical flight.”
  • Certifying new eVTOLs: “The FAA has very much wanted to fit these aircraft into its existing regulatory framework, and that’s created some challenges.”
  • The Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: “Fundamentally, at the root of it, is that human beings just are just not well equipped to manage a highly unstable aircraft like a helicopter in reduced visibility.”
  • Safety management systems: “At the end of the day, an SMS only functions as well as you organization wants it to and is committed to making it.”
  • Funding models for aviation companies: “The right way to get money for an aviation startup is where you realistically can get it, because it can be difficult.”

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