Joby, Eviation executives take top jobs with Shanghai-based air taxi developer
By Paul Brinkmann|October 5, 2022
AutoFlight plans to create a U.S. subsidiary and conduct flights in the United States
China-based air taxi developer, AutoFlight, today announced that two executives from two advanced air mobility companies have joined the enterprise to help lead its expansion plans that include establishing a U.S. subsidiary and flight center.
Joining AutoFlight as president is Omer Bar-Yohay, a co-founder of electric airplane developer Eviation Aircraft who left that company in February. Chad Cashin, formerly head of business development and strategy at Joby Aviation, is now AutoFlight’s chief commercial officer. Cashin, for now, will remain based near Napa, California, and Bar-Yohay will work out of the Seattle area.
AutoFlight was founded in Shanghai by aerial drone entrepreneur Tian Yu and views itself as a “global” company. So far, it has an engineering and certification center in Germany and manufacturing centers in Eastern China.
Plans call for conducting limited flights out of the Napa County Airport, where AutoFlight has hangar space, and establishing an American subsidiary and larger flight center likely somewhere more remote in the country. Eventually, AutoFlight wants to have separate manufacturing hubs in China, Germany and the U.S.
In November, AutoFlight attracted a $100 million investment from one of the strongest believers in air taxis, internet entrepreneur Lukasz Gadowski.
“I was thinking I was an expert in the industry, but [AutoFlight executives] shocked me with their progress. It’s a big deal,” Cashin told me in an interview, referring to the thousands of kilometers of remotely piloted flight tests he said the company has conducted.
Bar-Yohay said he was similarly impressed with the progress.
“AutoFlight is one of the only players in the industry that actually has performed significant numbers of flights,” he said. “It’s a design that will kind of create a path for a reasonable business model.”
The company has completed thousands of miles of remotely piloted flight tests with two configurations of its Prosperity I developmental electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, Bar-Yohay and Cashin said.
AutoFlight is one of few AAM companies, including Joby and Germany-based Lilium, that have achieved regular transition, in flight, from vertical lift to forward motion and intend to carry pilots as well as passengers, Cashin said.
AutoFlight currently has two developmental aircraft in flight testing. Each is designed to accommodate three passengers and a pilot, although for now they are being remotely piloted. Aerodynamically, both are versions of lift-plus-cruise designs that have separate propellers for forward motion and vertical lift. One has eight lift propellers and one propeller on the tail for forward thrust, while the other adds a second tail propeller.
“We’re still looking at minor tweaks and iterations,” Bar-Yohay said. “But this lift-and-cruise design creates a very simple machine.”
The company is seeking certification by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency by 2025, and that certification should help the company avoid any regulatory issues because of the China global headquarters, Cashin said.
Bar-Yohay left Eviation in February due to a public disagreement with one of its major investors. He said in a post on LinkedIn at the time that he “believed the company will endure the influence of even the most misguided investor.”
He said the AAM industry has spent billions of dollars on development and is now ready to mature to production.
“Now the market needs to separate the men from the boys. And I think we’re going there,” he said of AutoFlight.
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