Rob Scholl discussed Textron eAviation’s rapidly evolving AAM portfolio with Marty Kauchak, Halldale Media Group Editor.
Halldale Media (HM): Update us on Textron Group's activities in the vertical flight space and its efforts to develop an eVTOL portfolio in both the commercial and defense markets.
Rob Scholl (RS): Across its portfolio, Textron eAviation has been involved in a range of different eVTOL projects and is continuously aiming to pursue Textron’s long-term strategy to offer a family of sustainable aircraft for urban air mobility, general aviation, cargo and special mission roles.
One of Textron eAviation’s recent projects is the Nexus eVTOL. In the fall of 2021, the Nexus project was transferred from Bell to Textron eAviation, enabling the Nexus team to strategically leverage both airplane and rotorcraft engineering expertise from across the Textron enterprise.
Another project under the Textron eAviation umbrella is Pipistrel’s Nuuva, a long-range, large-capacity, heavyweight autonomous eVTOL. Designed to be an unpiloted air vehicle (UAV), the Nuuva combines the best of both airplane and helicopter air cargo transportation principles, requiring no runways, being compatible with standard helicopter landing pads and offering unbeatable fuel economy as well as low maintenance costs.
By leveraging the work across Textron’s aerospace and defense businesses, Textron eAviation is developing new opportunities to take advantage of fixed-wing and rotorcraft expertise in emerging aerospace technologies and markets.
Rob Scholl, CEO and President, Textron eAviation
HM: Shifting the focus to you, tell us about your current priorities.
RS: I oversee the development and expansion of Pipistrel and Nexus as Textron eAviation businesses. In this role, I am also responsible for building Textron eAviation’s external partnerships and creating a path for the further development and utilization of aircraft electrification and connected mobility technologies in the global market.
HM: Your business is working to evolve Nexus 4E, an urban air mobility vehicle with all-electric propulsion. When might the community see a Nexus first test flight?
RS: The Nexus eVTOL is a continuation of the 4EX aircraft. The aircraft now has six rotors; the four wing-mounted rotors tilt between vertical and horizontal flight and the two rear rotors on the tail booms are fixed to produce vertical thrust. The aircraft will have distributed electric propulsion and will be powered by a Pipistrel battery system.
The eAviation Nexus team, based in Wichita, Kansas, is currently refining systems requirements for the aircraft while simultaneously conducting tests on demonstration articles to include motor conversion actuation loading, flight controls laws and elements associated with aircraft power and battery management.
The Nexus team is currently designing a full-scale prototype of the Nexus and is planning to fly this within a couple of years. The entry into service date is dependent on technology and regulatory development as well as batteries, motors and operations.
HM: Tell us some of the market opportunities you envision for Pipistrel program aircraft – in particular for defense applications, in logistics and other non-combat roles.
RS: Pipistrel currently serves both military and civilian customers around the world with its Surveyor unmanned ISR and cargo platform. This aircraft can be customized to meet the unique missions of customers, including long-endurance missions of up to 30 hours. Pipistrel’s design and manufacturing process provide for low acquisition and operating costs and high reliability.
As with all Textron products, we will look to adapt Pipistrel’s current and future products, such as the Nuuva, to meet the logistics and transport needs of military customers around the world.
HM: Does Pipistrel have any aircraft demonstrations or evaluations scheduled with US DoD or another military department?
RS: The Pipistrel Surveyor is used by a variety of military customers around the world. At this time, there are no additional publicly announced demonstrations in the coming months.
HM: Share with us Textron eAviation's current collaborative efforts with training and simulation companies to advance early training activities for your customers' aircraft operators and maintainers.
RS: Given Textron’s extensive experience in pilot and operator training, we will partner with our system companies such as TRU and FlightSafety Textron Aviation Training to create comprehensive training solutions for future AAM aircraft.
HM: Major milestones and program developments we'll be seeing from Textron eAviation in 2023?
RS: In 2023, we plan to officially start the Panthera’s Part 23 certification flight testing for EASA. The Pipistrel team is also working to achieve first flight of the Nuuva v300 later this year. We are also working with the FAA to achieve LSA validation for the Velis Electro here in the United States. Finally, we also expect to have a number of exciting Nexus updates during the course of 2023.
The Nuuva requires no runways and is compatible with standard helicopter landing pads.
Source: Textron eAviation