Thomas Enders, a former chief executive of aviation giant Airbus, is joining the board of a fledgling flying-taxi company.
Enders’s appointment is a coup for Lilium, a Munich-based company that has pioneered the use of small electric jet engines to power its prototype five-seat flying vehicles, which take off and land vertically and are intended for short-hop intercity flights of up to 150 miles.
The former Airbus executive praised Lilium’s “pioneering spirit, innovation, and entrepreneurial courage,” in a statement. He said that the company’s use of small electric turbofan powered jets made Lilium’s aircraft quieter and smaller than competing designs from rival companies or helicopters. He also noted that the company had been working closely with European air safety regulators to ensure certification of its aircraft.
Enders’s joining the Lilium board is a sign of the growing maturity of flying-car startups. Once considered something out of science-fiction, efforts to build companies around flying taxis have attracted serious interest from investors, entrepreneurs, and aerospace engineers during the past five years. Lilium is considered a front-runner among a bevy of startups that include Kitty Hawk, which is backed by Google cofounder Larry Page; Joby Aviation, which recently agreed to buy Uber’s flying-taxi business, Volocopter; and Terrafugia. More established aerospace companies such as Airbus and Boeing are also working on similar small, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft aimed at relatively short-distance flights.
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