Above: The VX4 is believed to have been conducting an uncrewed flight test
Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) craft, the VX4, has crashed during a test flight at Gloucestershire’s Cotswold Airport.
Although the company have yet to comment on the incident, an airfield source claims the VX4 was performing unmanned inflight shutdowns as part of its ongoing testing programme, during which the aircraft crashed from a height of approximately 20ft. An image of the crash shows G-EVTL has apparently sustained significant structural damage, with the starboard wing visibly affected.
Fire crews were immediately called to the scene, described as being “concerned” for the safety of the lithium-ion batteries on board. The airfield was briefly shut although has since reopened, with traffic using the runway beyond the south side of the airfield where the crash occurred.
Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace, founded in 2016, completed the first tethered ‘hover’ flight of the five-seat VX4 in September 2022. The CAA issued the first Design Organisation Approval (DOA) to Vertical in March 2023 and the eVTOL successfully completed its first untethered flight in July 2023, ‘reaching its thrustborne speed of 40mph’ and ‘demonstrating exceptional stability and control’. Vertical is currently the only eVTOL manufacturer to have ‘live certification and validation programmes with five regulators’ underway, with initial type certification expected by the end of 2026.
Announcing its first half-year 2023 financial results in a letter to shareholders, Vertical confirmed it has ‘continued to advance its flight test activities with progress in its thrustborne flight test campaign (including lifting, hovering, flying and landing vertically)’.
Vertical is also ‘progressing the build of its second prototype VX4, which will incorporate learnings from tests conducted to date’. The second fuselage, manufactured by Leonardo, will ‘include more of [Vertical’s] technologies’ including the company’s proprietary battery packs and second-generation propellors, developed over five years of in-house testing.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, Vertical confirmed an incident had occured during a ‘motor faliure test scenario, which is a key requirement to progress to crewed operations’, adding that ‘the aircraft was remotely piloted and there were no injuries’. The company have been approached for comment.
An AAIB spokesperson told Pilot: “An accident involving a UAS at Cotswold Airport has been reported to the AAIB. An investigation has been launched and we have begun making enquiries.”