The Archer Midnight (Probably) Becomes the Largest eVTOL to Nail Transition Flight

Archer Midnight in flight 7 photos
Photo: Archer
Archer Aircraft Branded with the United LogoArcher MidnightArcher MidnightArcher MidnightArcher MidnightArcher Midnight
The world of electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is a very fascinating one, but you have to admit that for various reasons the companies working in this business are struggling a bit to bring their products into the real world. That's why when hearing that a company managed to perform a transition flight of a full-size VTOL we can't help from getting all worked up.
The name Archer may ring a bell or two if you are into VTOLs and this transportation revolution that seems to loom on the horizon. Based in California, the company was set up just five years ago with the goal of transforming urban travel.

The way Archer plans to do this is pretty simple: it will launch a VTOL capable of taking on the role of an air taxi in crowded urban environments, helping people shave tens of minutes off the travel time they would have otherwise spent inside a car.

The company's VTOL is called Midnight, and it can carry enough people to make it a suitable solution for the air taxi role: four passengers can climb inside at a given time, taking a ride in an aircraft that unlike others of its kind is not autonomous, but will rely on a human pilot to go to and fro.

The Midnight is powered by a total of 12 electric motors that get their juice from six independent battery packs. At full throttle, they can push the VTOL to a top speed of 150 mph (241 kph), and can keep in the air for as long as 100 miles (160 km).

That's not a particularly impressive range, but it should be more than enough to handle city transportation needs, cutting travel times from 90 minutes to 20 minutes. It can also quickly depart on another run, as its batteries can be recharged in as little as ten minutes.

Archer Aircraft Branded with the United Logo
Photo: Archer
Key to the eVTOL's operation is its ability to perform a transition flight. You see, the electric motors mentioned above spin wing-mounted propellers that lift the aircraft helicopter-style. This approach eliminates the need for long runways and complicated ground logistics.

Once in the air, though, the machine has to be capable of accelerating and switching from thrust-borne to wing-borne flight, essentially becoming an airplane. The way the Midnight does this is by tilting its propellers, which come back to the standard position as soon as the aircraft is about to land, again helicopter-style.

For the first time ever, the Archer Midnight managed to do that. The company announced that on June 8, the eVTOL transitioned at a speed of 100 mph (161 kph). It's one of the few VTOLs we know of to have reached this milestone, but also perhaps the largest of its kind to ever do so: the thing weighs about 6,500 pounds (2,900 kg).

This is the second eVTOL used by Archer to prove that transition flight of its technology works, after it did the same with an aircraft called Maker. For that one, the achievement came in 2022, and since that time the vehicle has been conducting a variety of test flights for the company.

For the Midnight, the successful test at the beginning of June came just seven months after it first flew. Add to that the fact that the VTOL already has final airworthiness criteria issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and you start to get a pretty good picture of where Archer is with this project.

The near future, meaning the months ahead, will bring more piloted flight tests, and later on that will be followed by simulations of the aircraft's operational readiness. High-rate flights, as well as new in-air maneuvers, will also fall under the spotlight in the coming months.

Archer Midnight
Photo: Archer
Between the daunting task of designing and testing a VTOL, getting certification, and the lack of a proper infrastructure and even rules for their safe operation, the companies in this business must be ready to loose a lot of money before starting making some.

Archer is not immune to that, but it is one of the few such companies to have the backing of a major player in the transportation business. It is automotive behemoth Stellantis which announced in early 2023 it is putting its might behind Archer.

Together, the two entities established a production facility in Covington, Georgia, where high-volume eVTOL aircraft manufacturing will soon begin. The target is to have 2,300 VTOLs made per year.

The Midnight also caught the attention of the American military, with the Department of Defense already pledging $142 million to get its hands on Archer Midnights. By all accounts, that is the "largest total contract value of any eVTOL company." And that's saying something, given how the different branches of the American military have been looking at various other VTOLs for quite some time now.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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