For the LIFT team, as I’m sure for many of you, 2020 has been all about overcoming challenges. We began the year thinking nothing could stop us from launching the world’s first personal, vertical flying experience in 2020. We were progressing through flight testing of our HEXA aircraft, starting production, and planning the first stops of our 25-city US tour. Then the world stopped.
For our internationally distributed team of engineers, suppliers, and partners, to say COVID has made it difficult to complete our flight testing, integrations, and initial production run in 2020 as planned would be a huge understatement. While we are not where I'd hoped we would be at the beginning of the year, when I look back I’m amazed at how much progress our team has made, despite the lockdowns, travel restrictions, and overall chaos this year has seen.
Here are a few highlights from 2020...
We've conducted hundreds more test flights, significantly expanding our flight envelope, and we began our first beta test flights (click the video above and check out LIFT adviser Colin Guinn's reaction to his first flight).
Many design improvements were made for production, including improved landing gear, floats, and our airframe can now be folded for easier storage and transport (more details to come). Working closely with our partners, we customized, redesigned, produced, and tested improved versions of our motors, electronic speed controllers, battery packs, and joysticks.
We've been awarded multiple contracts by the US Air Force to further develop, test, and certify HEXA, and we were thrilled to perform the first piloted eVTOL flight demonstration under the USAF's Agility Prime program with Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, in attendance. We're also excited to be partnering with the Center for Autonomous Air Mobility (University of Texas) on further developing HEXA.
To be formally announced soon, we selected a Tier-1 composite airframe manufacturing partner, invested in state-of-the-art, precision tooling and launched our first production run of 5 aircraft. Our partner produces structures for large commercial and military aircraft, so we are grateful to have them putting their significant expertise to use for our HEXA ultralight!
Our first fully assembled HEXA, serial number H004 (FAA registration N601HX), rolled off the line and immediately went on exhibition in Seoul for South Korea's first Urban Air Mobility Expo in November.
We are really excited to have completed the first version of our virtual reality flight simulator and training program - this is so close to flying the real thing, it gives me goosebumps. We have rethought, using a "first principles" approach, how simple it can be to fly a personal aerial vehicle and we can't wait for you to try it out!
Finally, we closed a significant funding round and have doubled the size of our team - bringing on some amazing new people - and we're planning to double our production capacity to 24 aircraft next year.
While we’re really proud of these accomplishments, we’re also incredibly disappointed we were unable to launch our 25-city US tour this year as planned. Doing so while the CDC Travel Risk was at Level 4 ("Highest Risk" - No Nonessential Travel) would have put our employees and customers at significant risk of exposure and was not even possible given quarantine requirements, travel restrictions, and even full "stay at home" orders in some cities. However, we’re very encouraged by the recent vaccine distributions, so we are confident we'll be able to start customer flights in 2021, with a significantly more developed production aircraft and refined flight experience.
To the 15,000+ on our waitlists - we are so grateful for your support... and patience! For those with pre-paid deposits for the tour, if at any time you would like your deposit refunded, please don’t hesitate to ask. Reach out to us at email@example.com. For those who can continue to be patient, we are absolutely going to launch the tour as soon as it’s safe per CDC guidelines. We can’t wait for you to fly with us - trust me when I say it’s worth the wait!
We wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season, and I hope you’re ready for an epic 2021!
Onward and upward,
CEO, LIFT Aircraft