Midnight is not only a catchy name for an aircraft, but one that you’ll want to remember. Among all eVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing) this one not only has a major customer (United Airlines) but will also be produced in cooperation with an automotive manufacturer (Stellantis).
Archer Aviation isn’t wasting any time. At the beginning of 2023, it was officially announcing that Stellantis was its exclusive contract manufacturer for the Midnight aircraft. Just a couple of months later, it has already started building a brand-new facility in Covington, Georgia.
What makes this future plant so important not just for the manufacturing partners, but for the AAM (Advanced Air Mobility) sector in general, is its high capacity. It will most likely be the first of its kind to be able to roll out 650 units per year. That’s a huge volume for a type of air vehicle that’s entirely new, and for mobility services that aren’t even in place yet.
As ambitious as that sounds, it’s just the beginning. Archer plans to grow this new facility from 350,000 square feet (32,500 square meters) to 800,000 (74,300 square meters) eventually. At that point, it will be able to produce up to 2,300 eVTOLs each year.
It’s not an outlandish vision, considering that United has already pre-ordered 100 units, with a $10 million deposit. Although Archer is lucky to have secured such an important customer, United surely won’t be the only one, especially since it’s also backed by Stellantis.
Covington, and the local Municipal Airport, could make aviation history with this pioneering facility opening up in the area. In April, we’ll most likely get to learn more about it, when Archer will hold an official ceremony at the location.
Fitted with 12 small propellers and an all-electric powertrain, Midnight claims a top speed of 150 mph (241 kph) and a short, 20-mile (32 km) range on a single charge. Configured as a four-seat air taxi, United’s future electric aircraft will become an emission-free alternative for short-distance flights, while also being much quieter than conventional helicopters (mostly due to the proprietary propeller configuration, with smaller propellers that are able to move at slower speeds).
Following the current trends, this air vehicle will also boast a sustainably-built cabin, that’s supposed to incorporate recycled materials (such as plastic bottles) with natural ones, including flax fiber.
Things are moving fast for Archer. With its new facility ready to start operating this year, and certification for the Midnight aircraft due in 2024, its eVTOL could be ready for the launch of commercial services in 2025. This means that in just two years, United Airlines customers could find out what it’s like to travel in U.S.-made electric flying taxis.