Mark Phelps

It’s all too easy to turn a jaundiced view toward any new announcement that touts big progress in eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) development. But when aerospace titan Airbus speaks, it’s hard to turn a completely deaf ear.

As part of its “Pioneering Sustainable Aerospace” summit earlier this week, Airbus announced plans for its CityAirbus NextGen urban air mobility (UAM) aircraft. The fully electric, four-seat, V-tail fixed-wing aircraft is configured with eight motors optimizing the “distributed propulsion” advantage. Perhaps most to its credit, the new program combines data and experience from Airbus’s 242 flight and ground tests with two lead-in designs—the Vahana and the first-generation CityAirbus program.

Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters, said, “We have learned a lot from the test campaigns with our two demonstrators. The CityAirbus NextGen combines the best from both worlds with the new architecture striking the right balance between hover and forward flight. The prototype is paving the way for certification expected around 2025.”

Initial performance targets are a modest 43-NM range flying at 65 knots’ cruise speed, said Airbus. Low noise signature is another, often underestimated, advantage of electric flight. Design goals for CityAirbus NextGen are sound levels below 65 dB(A) during fly-over and below 70 dB(A) during landing. And the design does not require moving surfaces or tilting parts during transition. “The CityAirbus NextGen meets the highest certification standards (EASA SC-VTOL Enhanced Category),” according to Airbus. “Designed with simplicity in mind, CityAirbus NextGen will offer best-in-class economic performance in operations and support.”