Four Air Force pilots remotely flew a Joby electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft at the company’s Marina, Calif., manufacturing facility April 20, 2023.
They were the first Air Force personnel to assume remote pilot-in-command responsibilities and transition flight for the eVTOL, preparing the Air Force for delivery of aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
“This next step of getting Air Force pilots trained and operating Joby aircraft at an Air Force installation is an incredibly important milestone for the program, providing key insights to actual operations, maintenance information, and use case validation for Advanced Air Mobility aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Tom Meagher, AFWERX Prime division chief. “Additionally, the Joby operations provide an outstanding opportunity for accelerated learning with the other Department of Defense services and government agencies, including NASA and the FAA.”
The flights preceded AFWERX Agility Prime’s April 25, 2023, announcement that it has entered into a third extension of its contract with Joby.
The extension enables options for Joby to deliver up to nine of its low acoustic signature, zero-operating emissions aircraft to the Air Force and other government partners. The first two Joby aircraft will be delivered to Edwards in early 2024.
The Edwards aircraft permit increased utilization and testing of the five-seat eVTOLs by AFWERX and the Air Force Test Center. The aircraft mark a new phase in the program’s efforts to bring zero-emissions aviation into the military and ensure a robust domestic market for eVTOL aircraft.
The Defense Department first partnered with Joby more than six years ago and began working with Agility Prime in 2020. The DOD provides the company with access to testing facilities, early operational experience for government customers, and a partial offset to its research and development costs.
“The Agility Prime program is a remarkably successful example of how public-private partnerships can deliver trailblazing technology at speed,” said JoeBen Bevirt, Joby founder and CEO. “We’re grateful for the support of the program and for the U.S. government’s wider commitment to global leadership in this important new sector. As well as allowing us to explore the wide range of potential use cases across the U.S. government, our defense partners have also provided us with high-impact support as we prepare for commercial operations in 2025.”
Edwards is the Air Force’s second largest base and is the site of hundreds of significant aviation events. In October 1947, Capt. Chuck Yeager became the first to break the sound barrier flying the Bell X-1. Throughout the 1960s, the X-15 rocket-powered aircraft was the first winged aircraft to fly Mach 4, 5 and 6. And in April 1981, the space shuttle Columbia, landed at the California air base after orbiting Earth 37 times.
“The first flight of a Joby eVTOL aircraft by Air Force pilots builds on the decades-long legacy of breaking barriers at Edwards,” said Col. Grant Mizell, 412th Test Wing Operations Group commander. “This new technology is brought to the world in rapid fashion by the convergence of commercial industry and our American Airmen working shoulder-to-shoulder.”