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A Key Partnership
  • 11 Mar 2024 08:15 PM
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A Key Partnership

Sidebar to the Vertiflite article, "Rolls-Royce Retrenches"

Bristol, England-based Vertical Aerospace Ltd. remains confident its partnership with Rolls-Royce to build the motors for its certification-bound VX4 eVTOL aircraft will continue, regardless of which company buys Rolls-Royce’s Electrical unit.

Vertical Aerospace Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Michael Cervenka’s response on the company’s relationship with Rolls-Royce was brief: “We continue to work with Rolls- Royce, which continues to support the [VX4] program.”

Initial certification is planned for the end of 2026. Vertical plans to first certify the VX4 with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), followed by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) and the Brazilian National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC).

The company is presently building the second full-scale prototype, together with industrial partners Leonardo, Honeywell and GKN Aerospace, before entering a program to receive its “Permit to Fly” from the UK CAA, which will allow the company to begin flight tests. “Our latest prototype is to validate our models and refine our understanding of the aircraft,” said Cervenka.

The Vertical Aerospace VX4 is powered by 8 Rolls-Royce Electrical motors. (Vertical Aerospace photo)

Vertical Aerospace is finalizing the design of the certification aircraft, but it will have Rolls-Royce electric propulsion units.

Vertical’s Limhi Somerville chairs the electric systems sub-group of the EUROCAE WG-112 Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Working Group, which is developing industry standards as acceptable means of compliance to support the EASA Special Condition on VTOL aircraft (SCVTOL). Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Lilium, Volocopter and Textron’s Pipistrel are also involved in this committee.

The four-passenger, one-pilot VX4 has a projected speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) and a 100-mile (160-km) range. It is powered by eight electric motors turning eight propellers and has a V-tail configuration. The first aircraft was irreparably damaged during a hover test last year (see “eVTOL Leaders Continue to Partner for Growth,” Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2023).

Plans are to fly the second VX4 at Farnborough International Airshow 2024 in July, as well as to and from Heathrow Airport.

In January 2024, Founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick committed to invest $50M in additional equity capital into Vertical, with the initial tranche of $25M at $10 per share and a second tranche of up to $25M at a price to be determined (see “eVTOL Leaders Continue to Advance,” Vertiflite, Mar/Apr 2024).


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