The FAA wants to license pilots for future eVTOL air taxis

Pilot licenses would be aircraft specific but allow them to fly globally.
Ameya Paleja
Flying taxis are to hit U.S. skies but when?
Flying taxis are to hit U.S. skies but when?


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed pilot training requirements and licensing and operational rules for powered-lift aircraft, popularly known as electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The rules are expected to usher in the future of flying taxis in the U.S., even as the technology is still years away from being commercially introduced.

Flying taxis or eVTOLs have been proposed as the ultimate solution to traffic woes in urban areas allowing individuals to take the aerial route to their destination. Whether running late for a meeting in the other part of the city or planning to take a long-distance flight from the airport, eVTOLS allows for quick short trips to be taken using aircraft that can vertically take off from rooftops or special vertiports.

Even as manufacturers figure out the smaller details of the technology needed to enhance the endurance and carrying capacities of their aircraft, the FAA has now begun focusing on the licensing demands of the space. Last week, it proposed rules for training and certifying pilots and has opened them up for public comments for a period of 60 days.

Separate licenses for eVTOLs

In its press release, the FAA highlighted that eVTOLs need separate rules for licensing pilots since they take off like helicopters but fly like airplanes. Currently, there is no aircraft in the civilian aerospace sector that is comparable, and therefore, pilots need to be familiar with both types of aircraft before they can fly eVTOLs commercially.

Additionally, the FAA also stressed that different eVTOL manufacturers were bringing "flight and handling characteristics" to their aircraft designs, and each was being equipped with different levels of automation. This called for pilots to earn ratings specific to the aircraft they intended to fly.

This sounds like it complicates the process and increases the difficulties for the pilot to fly across platforms. However, with eVTOLs expected to zoom over densely populated urban areas or fly to obscure environments like offshore oil rigs or providing critical support in the form of air ambulances, the requirement is not that large.

The FAA has also suggested a way out of the puzzle it has set up by suggesting that personnel involved in manufacturing eVTOLs could serve as the initial set of flight instructors, who could help in training instructors at flight schools, training centers, and air carriers.

The FAA wants to license pilots for future eVTOL air taxis
Flying taxis have been promised for years now

How far off are commercial eVTOLs, though?

Since pilots with instrument ratings and commercial certificates would find it easier to switch to eVTOLs, the problem of finding pilots may not be the biggest hurdle to flying taxis. The real question is how far we are from the technology going commercial.

Earlier this year, China became the first country to certify a two-seater eVTOL for flight, but the U.S. is likely a few years away from this. Joby Aviation, which has partnered with Delta Airlines to fly passengers to and from airports to nearby destinations, expects its aircraft to be commercially launched in 2025.

Aircraft giant Boeing, on the other hand, wants to go pilotless for its eVTOLs and has set a later deadline of 2030 for its aircraft to go commercial. Either way, flying taxis aren't likely to hit the U.S. skies for a few more years, and that's another problem we would love to see solved soon.

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