UK Civil Aviation Authority announces eVTOL safety consortium


The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced a new international consortium – eVTOL Safety Leadership Group (eVSLG) – of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) leaders and aviation experts at the HeliTech Expo 2021.

The consortium will help ensure the safety of eVTOL passenger and drone flights in anticipation of their wider adoption.

The group contains existing rotorcraft experts such as Halo Aviation, aviation companies including Bristow Group and Virgin Atlantic, as well as eVTOL manufacturers such as Joby and Vertical Aerospace.

The eVSLG consortium does not fall under the CAA’s governance and assurance processes. However, it is co-chaired by the head of the CAA’s Rapid Capabilities Office, Rick Newson and Matt Rhodes, UK and Turkmenistan oil and gas manager, Bristow Helicopters. Rhodes also co-chairs the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group.

Newson told Helicopter Investor the CAA has not had the opportunity to plan so much in advance with any other sector of aviation.

He said: “The formation of the eVSLG consortium is a significant milestone toward a future of eVTOL aircraft and drone taxis becoming a reality in UK airspace. With commercial operations potentially starting in the next five years, it is vital that a strong safety culture is built into the heart of eVTOL operations.”

Newson, who used to be head of rotorcraft for the CAA, said existing helicopter operators and companies are realising the potential of the eVTOL market.

Will Fanshawe, CEO, Halo Aviation told Helicopter Investor: “As Halo transitions from conventional helicopter operations to eVTOL operations, it is vital we take the lessons learned by the UK rotary industry with us. We are pleased to have been invited to participate in the eVTOL Safety Leadership Group and hope we can bring our operational experience to the table.”

Earlier this year, Halo was acquired by fractional jet provider Flexjet. Direction Aviation, Flexjet’s parent company, has announced its intentions to launch a SPAC [special purpose acquisition company] company Zanite Acquisition Corp looking at the future of flight.

Matt Rhodes said: “Many of the lessons learned, practices and procedures [in the last half century] that have been developed over this period, will undoubtedly read across into this new era of powered vertical flight.

Other consortium members include Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), British Helicopter Association, General Aviation Safety Council (GASCo) and air traffic control company NATS.

The HeliTech event took place in London on October 5th and 6th 2021.