Vertical Aerospace has completed a preliminary report in to why the VX4 prototype crashed during flight tests in August 2023.
The team behind the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft were conducting uncrewed flight tests at Cotswold Airport (GBA) in the United Kingdom (UK) on August 9, 2023, when the prototype impacted with the ground.
In photos taken at the airport, the aircraft appeared to suffer significant structural damage after falling from approximately 20ft in the air.
Vertical Aerospace said the damaged aircraft will still be used in further ground tests but will not be repaired to an airworthy standard.
According to Vertical Aerospace the VX4 prototype was carrying out uncrewed flight tests to “understand how the aircraft performed outside of its expected operating conditions before the aircraft’s planned retirement”.
The root of the crash was determined to be a bonding issue with a propeller which caused the aircraft to “enter a stable descent”.
Vertical completed a swift and thorough investigation and submitted a report to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in the UK.
The early generation propeller that caused the issue had already been redesigned prior to the incident, so the issue has technically already been resolved ahead of the next stage of prototype testing.
Further recommendations by the investigation are being implemented by Vertical Aerospace and the company made a point of “transparency and openness” regarding the incident with safety the fundamental issue.
“We are pleased with our flight test progress to date and the data, insights and invaluable learnings we have collected. While a fault of any sort is disappointing, it is not wholly unexpected at this stage of testing a novel aircraft. I am pleased that as a result of our expert team we have isolated the cause of the fault and been able to provide the AAIB with our report within 14 days of the incident,” Vertical Aerospace founder and CEO, Stephen Fitzpatrick, said in a statement.
The assembly of a second more advanced full-scale VX4 prototype is underway at GKN Aerospace’s Global Technology Centre.
This demonstrator is expected to be ready to fly early next year. Its components will include technology from most of Vertical’s certification partners: Honeywell, GKN Aerospace, Hanwha, Solvay, Leonardo and Molicel.
An additional, identical full-scale aircraft has also now been approved and is expected to be flying in the second half of 2024.
“Our planned second upgraded prototype, which will include most of our top tier partners’ technology, will have us in the air early next year and we remain on track for our certification timelines,” the founder added.