CJP 2022: Textron Looks to Future with eAviation
One of the most prominent current trends in business aviation is the emergence of advanced air mobility, or AAM. This segment promises to revolutionize urban transit by utilizing electric-powered vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to speed travelers between distant points more efficiently than current ground-based transportation options.
Those who’ve been around the industry for awhile, however, have seen such hype before, most recently in the 2000s with very-light jets that promised a similarly high-minded outcome. VLJs ultimately fizzled out in spectacular fashion, of course, though the concept did lead Textron Aviation to develop the Citation Mustang.
The company is now taking a similarly forward-looking approach to AAM. Rob Scholl, a familiar face to many CJP members in his former sales role at Textron Aviation, now serves as President and CEO of its eAviation division focused on AAM development and advancing new propulsion technologies, including hydrogen and electric power.
Scholl recalled his conversation nearly two years before with Textron Chairman, President and CEO Scott Donnelly about creating eAviation, including their discussion of startup companies that had raised upwards of $3.5 billion to “go darken the skies of our cities by 2024 with urban air taxis.
“My opinion, that’s not going to happen,” Scholl continued, “but the FAA has received over 200 designs for urban air taxis and there are billions upon billions of dollars being put into this market. If we’re not participating in this space, we risked missing out on whatever comes from it.”
That ultimately led to bringing the Nexus AAM program at Bell Helicopters (also a Textron Aviation company) under the eAviation umbrella, as well as the acquisition of Slovenian planemaker Pipistrel that Scholl noted is “the only company in the world that actually has a certified 100% electrically-powered airplane,” the two-seat Alpha Electro trainer.
“I’m not coming here with news of an all-electric Mustang Gen2,” Scholl quipped, though he did note progress on key development programs including the Nuuva V300 unmanned hybrid-electric cargo aircraft designed to transport 660 pounds on missions up to 300 nautical miles, and the Nexus air taxi.
And while the verdict is still out on AAM, Scholl made clear Textron Aviation’s place in defining what will come from the segment. “We’re the only company in the world focusing on a family of products that allow us to test out the challenges to bring these products to reality,” he said. “If anybody should be able to bring this to reality, it’s Textron.”