Boeing’s passenger air vehicle makes debut

Passenger air vehicle
Boeing’s passenger air vehicle takes flight at a testing ground in Manassas, Va. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing says it has successfully completed the first test flight of a prototype for its autonomous passenger air vehicle, which could start carrying riders as early as next year.

The test was executed on Jan. 22 at an airport in Manassas, Va., near the headquarters of Aurora Flight Sciences, the Boeing subsidiary that’s been developing the electric-powered, vertical takeoff-and-landing aircraft, also known as an eVTOL craft. Boeing NeXt, the business unit that leads Boeing’s urban air mobility efforts, is in charge of the test program.

The uncrewed flight lasted less than a minute and involved a controlled takeoff, hover and landing. The maneuvers were designed to test the prototype’s autonomous functions and ground control systems. A test dummy was strapped inside the cockpit for the ride.

Boeing said future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight, as well as the transition phase between vertical flight and forward flight. That transition is considered the most challenging mode for high-speed eVTOL aircraft.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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