The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has signed an agreement with the US Air Force (USAF) to share flight test data and expertise to inform the integration of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aircraft into the National Airspace System.
The agreement follows the FAA’s ‘Innovate28’ plan, which it outlined in July on the steps needed to safely enable AAM operations and has been signed with AFWERX Prime, the commercial product acceleration department of AFWERX, a technology directorate of the Air Force’s research laboratory.
FAA technology development director John Maffei said: “A new era of aviation is taking off and safe and efficient operations require collaboration. This data will help inform FAA certification efforts, policies, standards and future airspace integration requirements.”
Collaboration between the FAA and AFWERX comes as the USAF has engaged significantly with the AAM and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft industry, including assisting Joby Aviation with testing its eVTOL aircraft in “realistic operating scenarios”.
AFWERX also noted that it has awarded more than $345m in contracts to 36 different developers of electric aircraft and similar technology as part of its national AAM strategy, along with other agreements including a $85m strategic funding investment into Electra towards the production of a prototype of its electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft.
Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialisation officer for the Department of the Air Force, said he was excited about the direction the AAM industry was heading in and the USAF’s role within it.
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Col. Leigh said: “We are driving progress in propulsion technology, in manufacturing and materials and in test and safety for a novel class of air vehicles.
“Keeping this effort rooted in the United States, building our national security and accelerating innovation for our Airmen and Guardians are all crucial for the Air Force, and we are humbled to be a part of this historic effort.”
The AAM industry is currently one of the key focuses for the wider aviation industry and, as such, will need clarity from the FAA around regulation for its aircraft, something reflected in President Biden’s recent nomination of Michael G Whitaker, currently the COO of a AAM vehicle developer, to become FAA administrator.
Previously, in its Innovate28 plan, the FAA said that it would be amending operational rules and training requirements for the aircraft as appropriate using a crawl-walk-run methodology while developing permanent regulation.
The regulator also created Innovate28 to be a joint government and industry initiative designed to culminate in the integration of AAM operations at key locations by 2028.