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April 15, 2024
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Start-up Archer has made good progress on the development of its Maker eVTOL aircraft, ticking important boxes in its flight test program. The company has also completed the preliminary design review of the production version and received its first pre-delivery payment, from United Airlines. Archer provided updates in a shareholder letter on August 10. Archer about to start new test phase with Maker eVTOL.

Archer Aviation unveiled the first prototype of the Maker in June 2021. It is a two-seater, fixed-wing vehicle with an all-composite fuselage that is powered by twelve electric motors. With 75 kWh of battery power available, the vehicle can fly 100 kilometers/60 miles at a speed of 240 kilometers per hour/150 miles per hour. The Maker made its first, short hover flight on December 16.

Since then, tests have progressed well. In the shareholder letter, Archer says that the Maker recently has been flying multiple times per week and even per day. The program has completed two of three required phases of the test program and is now entering a new stage from hover to horizontal flight. This so-called transition phase, in which the rotors tilt from their horizontal to a vertical position, is critical. “Given the successful completion of these two phases, we remain on track to complete the first full transition flight with Maker in the second half of 2022,” says Archer.

Midnight completes Preliminary Design Review

From the Maker demonstrator aircraft, Archer is moving to a piloted four-seater vehicle that will be named Midnight. The Preliminary Design Review has been completed, with the findings now used for the Critical Design Review that is scheduled for the first half of 2023. The Midnight will be the version that Archer plans to certify for commercial services, for which it is actively working with the FAA. Archer expects to submit eighteen so-called subject specification certification plans (SSCP) in the coming months to demonstrate that the various design elements are sound.

At 100 miles, the Midnight will have more range than the Maker. Archer is confident the vehicle is able to operate successive twenty-mile flights with only a ten-minute pause for recharging the batteries in between. The Midnight should be able to carry 1.000 pounds/450 kilograms in the payload of the pilot, four passengers, and their luggage.

At the same time as finalizing the design, Archer is building its manufacturing infrastructure. It says that it has selected over fifty percent of its suppliers for the program, recently adding Honeywell for various systems and FACC for the production of the fuselage and wing elements to the program.

United pays $10 million deposit

In what it describes as a “watershed moment for the eVTOL industry”, Archer announced that it has received a $10 million pre-delivery payment from United Airlines on 100 Midnights. In February 2021, the airline placed an order worth $1.0 billion plus $500 million for options, conditional to United’s business and operating requirements. Mesa also intends to purchase 100 Archers, bringing the order book to a combined 200 vehicles. No further orders have been announced since last year. United’s decision to place a deposit for 100 of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft signals its desire to be one of the first airline operators in the US to bring eVTOL aircraft to market”, Archer says in a press release. In July, American Airlines made a pre-delivery payment to Vertical Aerospace, which was believed to be the first in the eVTOL industry.

In a financial update, Archer reported a $-71.7 million loss for the April-June quarter. This is up from $-59.2 million by the end of March. Operating expenses increased to $80.2 million from $65.3 million as the company invests more in the design, development, testing, and certification, while also growing its organization. The higher loss also reflects the higher operating expenses. Archer ended June with $654.8 million in cash and cash equivalents compared to $704.2 million in March, again mainly caused by higher expenses. It expects these to increase in Q3 to $95-$103 million. 

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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