Air Traffic Management Magazine recently had the opportunity to pay a visit to Lilium’s facilities outside of Munich, Germany to experience the current state of their eVTOL jet.

Let’s begin with some highlights about the company in case they are new to you.

Company background basics

Founded in 2015, the company has already raised about $1.5Bn in outside investment. Of the 1,000 current employees, there are more than 500 aerospace engineers and aviation professionals working to develop and launch a eVTOL with an aviation first perspective. More about the jet later…

Simulator experience

We began the visit with two simulator experiences. The first was an opportunity to fly the jet around the city of Munich with landing and take-off movements. At first, I was a bit concerned if I would tilt the aircraft too far over or come too close to a building – this didn’t happen – but after about ten minutes I was very comfortable with the controls and ready to take on the take-off and landing movements without step by step instruction. It was really amazing how easy it was to get the feel for controlling the aircraft. I can say based on other simulator experiences; this was a welcome surprise. The simulator uses the real flight operations technology, so the learning curve for actual pilots – versus a magazine editor – should be quite easy.

Moving on to the next simulator, I ‘flew’ in the body of the jet that let me experience the aircraft noise, wind noise and vibration levels for take-off, landing and cruise altitude. In the future there will be movement added to this experience. I came away from this with some pro/con commentary. The take-off itself had more vibration and noise then I would expect – still less than a helicopter – and it felt a bit like a sea plane getting ready to go. Whilst at cruising altitude, it was very smooth. Definitely more like a business jet than a helicopter. On the downside it was louder than I expected for the business jet audience. Too loud for a business conversation and potentially to concentrate on your work.

The engineer who was manning this simulator explained to me that this was a version with the most basic sound insulation and there would be opportunities to upgrade this. The tradeoff is more weight for a quieter flight. Although I’m sure this is a topic they will continue to work on. The landing was very smooth. Less vibration and sound then the take-off.

A chat with one of the co-founders

Lilium Jet interior

Daniel Wiegand, Chief Engineer for Innovation & Future Programs/Co-Founder, shared some thoughts with me regarding the current and future business strategy for the company - whilst sitting in their demonstrator jet. The initial area of focus for the company is the Premium Jet market: private, fractional ownership, charter, and business aviation with their first activities actively selling aircraft and aftermarket services to early adopters in general and business aviation. Their second area of focus will be Mass market aviation: commercial aviation focused on the high-volume commercial shuttle market. The company is already in discussions with possible customers in both of these markets. 

Lilium is not currently chasing the UAM market and has positioned themselves in an area that is poised to move ahead without the need to wait for new infrastructure – such as vertiports and integration with airport technology. This positions them as a potential early mover in the eVTOL space.

We discussed some of the key differentiators for their aircraft. A focus on time savings is a key driver to select their solution. The first product will have 4-6 seats and in the future they estimate that up to 15 passengers could be transported with the ability to still utilise existing helipad infrastructure. But in summary, they believe the sweet spot for eVTOLs will be 6 – 10 passengers.

They selected jet technology as this is more efficient than propellers. The battery packs that will be used can be replaced without needing to replace the aircraft and a unique onboard cooling system keeps the batteries cool in flight resulting in a lower impact due to external heat – other solutions might need to be cooled on the ground. The importance here is the ability to perform as desired in high temperature climates. As we know there is a great deal of interest in the Middle East region for eVTOL technology in general, this will be a key factor.

The turnaround time between flights is kept at a minimum as the jet can be charged anywhere with a combined charging system (CCS) cable and a full charge only takes about 30-45 minutes.

Their go to market plan is to have the first flights towards the end of this year and then to test over the next 18 months in preparation for commercial launch in 2026. 

Manufacturing ramp up

The last stop on my visit was to see the new manufacturing facilities at the Lilium campus. It was really interesting to see how the different components are assembled along the process. Unfortunately, I’m not able to share any visuals from this part of the visit. But it does appear that their forward momentum is building week after week with new capabilities being added.

I’m looking forward to seeing the test flights later this year and to hear upcoming announcements from Lilium as they approach their commercial launch.