Eric Lindbergh takes challenge to design eVTOL for urban transportation
Major tasks to create certification, operational and jurisdictional bases
Right Genes to make to achieve goals
Though Erik Lindbergh’s grandfather’s aviation legacy is primarily as an historic pilot, Charles A. Lindbergh was involved in more than just flying. The Lone Eagle was active in several sophisticated aeronautical projects:
- the redesign of the Spirit of St. Louis Ryan M-2 for his New York-Paris flight,
- fostering the rocketry of Robert Goddard,
- his research on hypoxia
- the perfecting of the aerodynamics for combat applications of both the United Aircraft Corporation’s F4U Corsair, (“bent-winged bird”) and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
Erik’s lineage begins with his being the son of Barbara Robbins and Jon Lindbergh, who in turn is the son of famous aviators Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The 52 year old earned a degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry Aviation College. His aviation pursuits include recreating the solo, single engine New York-Paris flight on the 75th anniversary of the 1927 feat. He is a member of Board of Trustees of the X Prize.
Now, he has announced the creation of VerdeGo Aero, its goal is to design and manufacture a VTOL aircraft, powered by a hybrid electric powerplant. Its ambition is to be a player in the projected multibillion-dollar urban transportation market. The VerdeGo Aero will be a safe, green (clean and quiet), plus it is expected to fly autonomously or with a pilot. Its design specifications are listed in this PDF.
Its headquarters is located at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University incubator MicaPlex in Daytona, Florida.
An ambitious aeronautical engineering project poses even greater challenges:
- new certification criteria will have to be established for all of these as-of-yet untested elements (hopefully the principles of Part 23 will be applied to this aircraft):
- an electric hybrid engine
- the VTOL system
- autonomous navigation system
- dual-tilted and contra-directed thrust systems
- environmental standards
- operational regulations for a VTOL aircraft flying in an urban area, a set of rules so much different from existing standards that the drafting will have to be a “clean sheet” project, including:
- what is the size and character of areas for take-off and landing?
- how does the pilot/autonomous system alert the AT system to the vehicle’s entry/exit?
- assume high demand periods; is there a need to sequence proximate departures/arrivals?
- AT corridors?
- weather (wind, visibility, etc.) and daylight/night criteria for piloted and autonomous flight?
- training and experience requirement for pilot licensing?
- safety and economic certifications for the air taxi operator?
- a whole host of details,e. there’s no total loaded aircraft weight specified but the specs show a pax payload of 500#, how will weight and balance be administered if there is a problem given a distributed vertiport system?
- the integration of this VTOL “aerocar” into an urban area will be a test of federalism. For example,
- if the FAA likely set speed limits, may the locality establish tighter restrictions?
- will the “aerocars” be federally registered (N numbers) or will states be allowed to collect these fees?
- will federal certification preempt local licensing of these taxis?
- setting taxi rates in Washington and/or beyond the Beltway?
All of these complex question will have to be definitively answered BEFORE the VerdeGo flies as shown in these drawings with paying passengers:
In 1927 it was thought that a flight between New York and Paris was perilous if not impossible; after ten fliers died trying to win the Orteig Prize, the public was convinced that it was impossible, if not insane. One intrepid explorer was willing to defy the odds and he completed the challenge in 33 hours, 30 minutes, 29.8 seconds. The above list of engineering and regulatory challenges may be even more daunting; so, the genes of Erik Lindbergh may be required to conquer all of these Sisyphean tasks.
Thanks to Mike Borfitz in writing this article.
Share this article: