Forget that most major eVTOL OEMs are not eyeing their first round of operational flights until about 2025. An all-hands effort of government and industry stakeholders is gaining momentum to establish the training organizations that will prepare pilots and maintainers to begin this next chapter of aerospace industry history.  

An impressive cross-section of eVTOL training experts provided insights and perspectives on the new strategies and methodologies that will be required to prepare eVTOL pilots and maintainers to operate and sustain the initial fleets of these aircraft.

Editor’s Note: Col. Haley and Chris Courtney will both be speaking at Halldale Group’s World Aviation Training Summit (WATS) next month, 18-20 April, in Orlando. 

One panelist, Air Force Colonel Don "Stryker" Haley, Commander, Detachment 62, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, is working with more than 25 OEMs in the broad AAM sector to help establish a US industrial base in competencies ranging from air vehicles, cargo and taxi operations, airspace management and others. The efforts, ultimately supporting AFWERX, are in their early phases. “There’s not a lot of near-term electric use cases. These efforts will scale and mature. We’re here to help,” he emphasized.

These collaborative activities are helping new aircraft OEMs shape their training programs. Kellen Mollahan, Commercial Operations Lead at Joby Aviation, noted his team has completed a number of early flight test operations in support of AFWERX, which, in turn, are providing training lessons learned to bring back to the commercial side.

Mission Differentiators

To the person, the panel members were in agreement that flight missions differ between legacy-era aircraft and new eVTOL vehicles – creating the need to have different learning models for nascent eVTOL training departments. In one of many differences between operating an eVTOL and legacy-era aircraft, there is no liquid fuel expenditure on eVTOL missions. As a result, pilots do not need to calculate weight loss in their mission planning. Yet, increasingly discussed around the community is the emergent “range anxiety” phenomena that is centered around eVTOLs being battery-powered, and power consumption rates varying and being most intensive on takeoff and landing, as opposed to during steady flightpath profiles. Pilots will need to learn about and experience range anxiety, and consider it in their mission planning activities along with gaining new decision-making skill sets.  

AAM panel[11819].jpgHAI Heli-Expo 2023 AAM training panelists presented compelling reasons for generating tailored, specific content for eVTOL pilots and maintainers – different from legacy-era fixed- and rotary aircraft instruction. Left to right: Air Force Colonel Don "Stryker" Haley, Commander, Detachment 62, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command; Chris Courtney, Director of Advanced Air Mobility at CAE; Kellen Mollahan, Commercial Operations Lead at Joby Aviation; Bryan Willows Program Manager, Advanced Air Mobility at Bristow. Image credit: Marty Kauchak.

CAE: 36 Months to Train Pilots

Chris Courtney, Director of Advanced Air Mobility at CAE, is leading one industry effort to provide products and services to initial pilots and maintainers throughout the eVTOL market.

The retired military aviator commented on helping establish training organizations throughout the community, emphasizing CAE’s business model looks at an approximate 36-month process to train and produce aspiring pilots and other professionals. CAE is bringing to bear competencies across its technology portfolio to offer eVTOL customers cost-effective and quality training during this training continuum. 

“These businesses will be an airline and their training must be cost effective. We’re also using the synthetic environment to help train pilots to move beyond traditional aircraft missions which go from points A to B. You are no longer achieving and flying at altitude. In the eVTOL you increasingly care about trees, buildings and everything else in between points A and B,” he pointed out.

Pilot Shortages, Here Too

The eVTOL sector is also discussing workforce recruitment and retention issues that continue to resonate with the commercial legacy fixed- and rotary aircraft communities. Beyond acquiring required pilots and maintainers, the panel members generated collateral discussion points, including how aspiring professionals will pay for their education. 

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Bryan Willows, Program Manager, Advanced Air Mobility at Bristow, noted the eVTOL community’s solution cannot solely rely on former military CV-22 pilots, and will also need an early mentoring strategy for the first wave of eVTOL operators. 

One major shaping function for the future eVTOL pilot community will be the outcome of the FAA’s new regulations and rules regarding the aircraft themselves, and in turn, the pilots for these new fleets. FAA decisions on eVTOL certification and similar regulatory matters are expected in 2023.