Certifying the Lilium Jet and its operations
- We're working with the relevant regulators and authorities, including the EASA and the FAA, to ensure that the Lilium Jet and its operations will comply with existing and future regulations, policies and procedures.
The Lilium Jet and its operations are designed to comply with existing regulations, policies, and procedures of the relevant aviation rulebooks. In the first years of service, the aircraft will operate under the traditional rules of the air using conventional means of navigation and communication, facilitated by the onboard pilot.
In order to welcome our first passengers on board, we will need to comply with the safety regulation of the aircraft itself in addition to all operational aspects such as flight operations, crew training and the vertiport requirements. While some adaptations are required to existing regulations, the similarity of Lilium operations to existing services (including piloted helicopters and other small aircraft), means that a close-to-comprehensive set of rules already exists.
The Lilium Jet is designed and produced by Lilium to the highest aeronautical standards. As in any aircraft development process, the company will obtain the required approvals, namely the Design Organisation Approval (DOA) issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Production Organisation Approval (POA), issued by the responsible national aviation authority, to design and manufacture the aircraft respectively. At the end of the design and testing process, the Lilium aircraft will receive a Type Certificate in accordance with accepted regulatory standards, which certifies compliance with the Type Certification Basis requirements predominantly around safety of the aircraft itself.
In July 2019, EASA published a novel set of rules for the certification of eVTOL aircraft – Special Conditions for small-category VTOL aircraft (SC VTOL) – applicable to aircraft with a maximum of 9 passenger seats and a maximum certificated take-off mass of less than 3,175kg. The Lilium Jet will be certified under SC VTOL. As part of the certification process, Lilium must demonstrate that its aircraft achieves a safety level objective of 10-9, meaning that a catastrophic failure that would prevent the Lilium Jet from safely completing a flight, must not occur more than once in a billion flight hours. This high safety level, equal to what is expected from commercial airliners, will allow the Lilium Jet to operate even in densely populated areas with passengers on board. Safety is and always will be Lilium’s highest priority.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Lilium is utilizing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) recently reformed Part 23 – Airworthiness Standards: Normal Category Airplanes to certify the Lilium Jet. The effort to move Part 23 to a performance-based approach has taken several years, with considerable input from industry and legislative direction from U.S. Congress. Although not primarily focused on eVTOL aircraft, the new amendment 64 of Part 23 affords the flexibility needed to certify innovative designs and technologies, like the Lilium Jet, without imposing unnecessarily prescriptive requirements. Prior to the new rule, certifying the Lilium Jet would have been a prohibitively expensive and time-consuming process.
Once certified by EASA and the FAA, the Lilium Jet Type Certificates are expected to be recognized by national authorities around the world – a common practice in today’s global market with EASA and the FAA having some of the world’s leading commercial aircraft manufacturers based in their respective regions. As a result, it will be allowed to operate in any State that recognizes and accepts the EASA and FAA regulatory standards.
It is not only the aircraft, but also its safe operation that will be subject to approval. Similar to traditional airlines and commercial operators, regulators will review the end-to-end passenger safety concept. This approach has allowed commercial aviation to become the safest mode of transportation in the world in the past 80 years. The Lilium Jet will be operated by a fully-fledged airline (defined as the holder of an Air Operator Certificate, or AOC). AOCs are granted by the relevant authority in each jurisdiction – typically a National Aviation Authority. The primary objective of airline certification is to ensure that operations are safe and compliant with regulation. Certification is a thorough process in which the regulator examines, inter alia, the operator’s personnel, procedures, and operating manuals.
In the EU, commercial air transport operators apply for an AOC on the basis of the Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012, which outlines technical requirements and administrative procedures for airline certification. This set of rules is tailored to existing types of aircraft, i.e. airplanes and helicopters, and not to eVTOL aircraft. EASA is currently engaged in a rule-making exercise which will allow for the safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and manned VTOL aircraft into the European airspace. Lilium has been actively participating in the respective working groups of the rule-making task and is looking forward to the implementation of the new regulatory framework, which will be directly applicable in all 27 EU Member States. The first regulatory proposal (Notice of Proposed Amendment, or NPA) is expected to be published by EASA in June 2021 and will follow the standard EU rulemaking process.
Countries outside of Europe and the U.S. are making significant progress in preparing for eVTOL operations as well, with China being one prominent example. In 2020, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) granted the world’s first commercial license to an eVTOL manufacturer, focused on passenger drones, to carry out commercial operations and passenger testing. The approval was based upon previously accepted protocols and is expected to be expanded once operational experience will be gained.
The Lilium Jet will be a manned aircraft, flown by a pilot holding a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). For initial operations, Lilium pilots will be trained in a similar way to traditional airlines, resulting in a Lilium Jet type rating or similar approval.
During the training process, Lilium plans to utilize, to the greatest extent possible, new virtual and mixed reality technologies in order to provide a more realistic training experience for the pilots. Doing so will allow pilots to experience both normal and abnormal procedures in a safe and enhanced environment.
As Lilium grows its network, expanding to additional cities and landing locations, there will be a need to train and certify a larger number of pilots. A future, more simplified pilot license which takes into consideration the high degree of automation of the aircraft and the full range of its capabilities will ideally be developed and utilized to train air crew to operate the Lilium Jet and other eVTOL designs.
Lilium is pursuing a path to partner with one of the biggest aviation training organizations, opening up work opportunities for pilots where one day they can choose to pursue a more regional aviation career that would allow them to come home every night.
Summary and food for thought
The Lilium Jet is designed to fit into the existing regulatory framework. At the same time, Lilium also recognizes the potential of working closely with the relevant regulators and authorities as well as other manufacturers and operators to support the development of future regulations, policies, and procedures.
Looking ahead, eVTOL aircraft operators and their passengers will benefit from new rules that create a framework for future high-speed, high throughput manned and unmanned passenger operations. The introduction of regulatory adjustments is typically a lengthy process, especially to ensure that safety is never compromised; that is why we are working with regulators now to meet the future demand, driven by these emerging technologies.
It has been positive to see several different jurisdictions thinking ahead and placing waypoints to help navigate the journey, including the FAA’s recent publication of the initial concept of operations (FAA Concept of Operations Urban Air Mobility) for public review. At the same time, it will be critical for authorities and stakeholders to collaborate in order to avoid divergence.
At Lilium, we are and will continue to be engaged with authorities and industry partners around the world to contribute to a common global framework being in place as soon as possible to support the introduction and growth of this revolutionary new mode of transportation that will enable greater regional air mobility.