Lilium tries the transition – economy

Communication between flight test engineer and pilot is routine. “Accelerate smoothly to 95 knots,” the test leader is heard saying. A few moments later, the Lilium Jet is hovering at the requested speed over the seemingly endless olive groves of the Andalusian town of Villacarrillo. The swiveling engines of the large wing have already been folded into the horizontal position, and now the twelve small engines on the smaller front wing follow. The transition to cruise flight, in which the lift is only generated aerodynamically on the wings and no longer directly through the thrust, has been made for the first time.

The test, completed last Friday and now documented by Lilium via published video, is an important achievement for the program. Because the transition from the vertical take-off of the electric aircraft to horizontal flight is technically extremely demanding. And Klaus Roewe, the new head of the start-up, points to another aspect: the aircraft behaved exactly as predicted in the computer simulations. So the people in the development department at Oberpfaffenhofen Airport obviously did a good job in that regard.

Transition is a theme that not only describes the current flight tests of the Lilium Jet well, but also the current phase of the company. In August, Roewe moved into the Lilium administration in Building 335 and, as soon as the shareholders have confirmed him, will become the new CEO and successor to company founder Daniel Wiegand. He had retired from the top position, but remains a shareholder and is responsible for future projects on the board. Wiegand, 37 and a graduate of the Technical University of Munich, was the one who had the vision of electric flight and founded Lilium with ex-classmates.

Now Lilium is entering a new phase. The technical concept of the Lilium Jet is basically – six seats, electric VTOL with a range of 175 kilometers. But now it’s about approval and production, which should start in a year so that the first Lilium Jet can be delivered in 2025. It should be judged by Klaus Roewe, an industry veteran who was responsible for Airbus for more than 30 years and, among other things, as program manager for the development of the A320neo-Family, after all, the most successful short- and medium-haul aircraft of all time.

The jet is said to fly in several versions

Roewe has been getting used to it for two months: “There have been no nasty surprises,” he says. “If I had known before the commitment what I know now, I would have made the same decision.” Two things in particular convinced him. The former Airbus boss Tom Enders, with whom he mainly worked in the A320neo-Time has worked together intensively, now heads the Lilium Supervisory Board. “When Tom lends his name to something, it’s not a crazy thing,” says Roewe. And then there was the chance to design an airplane again, every aerospace engineer’s dream: “This reminds me a lot of the good old one A320neo-Time. No day is like the other.”

This applies in particular to the Lilium Jet, a project that has been viewed with some great skepticism. The technology is too complex, the promises in terms of range too extensive, the market prospects too questionable, and there is too much hype about a niche product that does little or nothing to decarbonize the future aviation contributes because it does not replace current aircraft, so the criticism.

Roewe is the first to admit that the difficulties are far from over. phoenix 2, the machine that is currently circling over the olive groves of Andalusia, is a prototype that is far from the production model, the approval of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is complex, the schedule is tight. Even if the next hall for the assembly of the machines is already being built opposite the Lilium headquarters, there is still a long way to go before the first customer takes delivery of their Lilium Jet.

Speaking of customers, as of late, Lilium has been targeting more wealthy individuals or executives who take short business trips, at least in the initial phase, and no longer promises flights at taxi fares. The demand for the electric aircraft as a business jet is extremely high, and the prices for Lilium are attractive, according to Roewe. As far as the market forecasts are concerned, he pleads for “humility” because nobody knows today which segment will develop best. In any case, he envisions the Lilium Jet as a family concept: there could be larger versions or an electric freighter and military applications.

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