EASA releases framework for development of VTOL aircraft

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EASA has released a Special Condition to act as a framework for the development of hybrid and electrical vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, to enable their safe operation in Europe. The Special Condition was subject to public consultation in October 2018, and developed in consultation with stakeholders from around the world.

It applies to person-carrying VTOL heavier-than-air aircraft in the small category, with lift/thrust units used to generate powered lift and control. The small category covers aircraft with a passenger seating configuration of nine or less and a maximum certified take-off mass up to 3,175kg.

“We are actively engaging with the industry to develop the right technical requirements to take benefit of the new technologies bringing safety and environmental benefits to the community,” said Patrick Ky, executive director at EASA. “The establishment of a common set of conditions for the certification of these new concepts of vehicles will enable a fair competition on the European market as well as clarity for future manufacturers and their investors.”

Two certification categories are introduced in this Special Condition – Basic and Enhanced – which are linked to the intended type of operations. A direct relationship between airworthiness and types of operations already exists. The introduction of this additional link is intended to provide greater scalability in setting safety objectives and allows the assignation of the highest safety levels of the Enhanced category to the protection of third parties when flying over congested areas and for the commercial air transport of passengers. The operational rules can then be built on demonstrated aircraft safety levels and adapted as necessary to local particularities. The agency engaged with its international partners to work together toward common standards.

The current regulatory framework has initially been designed for conventional fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft, balloons and sailplanes. Propulsion has mostly been provided by piston or turbine engines using fossil fuels. The introduction of new technologies and concepts of air transport requires this framework to be revisited. The agency is currently consulting with its advisory bodies on a new rule-making task (RMT.0731) to develop rules or amend existing ones, to address new technologies and operational air transport concepts, with the objective to be agile and to adapt the regulatory framework in line with performance-based regulations principles. The experience gained through the application of the VTOL Special Condition will feed into the rule-making process.

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Izzy has been part of the Business Jet Interiors International team since its second issue, and the editor since 2011. She also edits Auditoria and Railway Interiors International. Outside of work, Izzy is rediscovering her love of art by learning how to paint with watercolors.

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