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Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft company Archer Aviation, manufacturer of the five-seat Midnight air taxi, will soon begin flying aircraft commercially.

Archer on Wednesday announced its subsidiary, Archer Air, received an FAA Part 135 air carrier and operator certificate, authorizing it to operate as a commercial airline as Midnight advances toward type certification. The manufacturer anticipates it will achieve that milestone next year. In the meantime, it plans on using its Part 135 approval to fly conventional aircraft “to refine its systems and procedures in advance of launching Midnight into service for airlines like United Airlines,” which in 2021 agreed to purchase $1 billion worth of Archer aircraft.

“Over my career, I’ve helped lead the buildout of JetBlue and Breeze Airways, and now that Archer has its Part 135 and 145 certificates from the FAA, I’m thrilled for our incredible team to commence operations on this innovative new air taxi service soon,” said Tom Anderson, chief operating officer of Archer Air.

The Part 135 certification process comprised five stages, Archer said. The manufacturer was required to submit operational manuals and procedures to the FAA, and company pilots demonstrated compliance with those materials under agency observation.

“This milestone reflects our team’s unwavering dedication to safety and operational excellence as we stand up one of the world’s first electric air taxi services for communities across the U.S. with a safe, sustainable and low noise transportation solution,” said Adam Goldstein, founder and CEO of Archer.

Archer’s flagship Midnight is a zero-emission model designed for a pilot to fly as many as four passengers on 20 to 50 sm (17 to 43 nm) air taxi routes, cruising at up to 150 mph (130 knots). The air taxi is intended to be cost competitive with ground-based rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft, replacing lengthy commutes with 10-to-20-minute flights, while producing significantly less noise than a helicopter.

Archer is one of just two eVTOL air taxi manufacturers to receive Part 135 permissions from the FAA, the other being competitor Joby Aviation. Joby, which unlike Archer intends to operate its own aircraft in the U.S., obtained its authorization in 2022.

Archer will have a hand to play in United’s operation of Midnight, though.

The company is developing a proprietary operations software platform, mobile booking platform, and technology that will integrate with vertiports, all of which will be essential to a commercial service. Now, it can begin to refine those platforms using conventional aircraft.

With Wednesday’s announcement, Archer now holds Part 135 and Part 145 certification, the latter of which authorizes it to perform select maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services. But Midnight won’t be able to fly commercially until it achieves type certification, which would validate the aircraft’s design, and production certification, which will allow Archer to begin producing the type-certified model.

The manufacturer has already begun building three type-conforming Midnight air taxis to be used in crewed flight testing later this year. For-credit evaluations with the FAA will follow and represent one of the most critical steps in the type certification process.

The agency in May awarded Archer final airworthiness criteria for Midnight, which laid out the standards it will use to gauge the aircraft’s ability to integrate safely into the national airspace. Competitor Joby is the only other eVTOL manufacturer to reach that step with the regulator, obtaining its own criteria one month prior.

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