Ex-Airbus CEO Tom Enders backs flying taxi start-up Lilium

The company has raised more than $375m since it was founded in 2015

Lilium Air Taxi. Courtesy Lilium GmbH
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Former Airbus chief executive Tom Enders has joined the board of German flying taxi start-up Lilium.

Munich-based Lilium impressed the aviation industry veteran with its strong business case, focus on intercity shuttle flights, a close relationship with Europe's safety and certification authority EASA and strong partnerships for its production and flight operations, Mr Enders said in a blog post on Monday.

"Today, Lilium is on its way from visionary start-up to serious aircraft manufacturer and service provider," he said. "Our industry needs nothing so much as innovation and new perspectives. That's the only way we can maintain and renew our licence to fly."

Lilium, which was established in 2015, has raised more than $375 million in funding from investors such as China's Tencent Holdings and investment management firm Baillie Gifford, according to its website. The company, which currently employs more than 600 people, aims to bring into service a fully-electric five-seater flying taxi that can take-off and land vertically.

Mr Enders, who left European planemaker Airbus in 2019, has more than 30 years of aerospace experience.

The executive dismissed sceptics and critics of the new technology's commercial viability.

"This is a rocky and by no means risk-free road," Mr Enders said. "But how are we going to move aviation forward if not with fresh ideas and courageous young entrepreneurs? The history of aviation is full of so-called experts and doubters who declared back then that everything that we see flying today would be impossible or impractical."

In November, Lilium said it would establish its first US hub for high-speed electric air mobility network in Orlando, Florida, with plans to start operations by 2025. The location provides the opportunity to connect more than 20 million Floridians within a 186-mile radius using the electric aircraft that can travel distances of up to 300km within one hour on a single charge.

How are we going to move aviation forward if not with fresh ideas and courageous young entrepreneurs?

In October 2019, the start-up completed a test flight of the aircraft as part of its first phase of testing with the Lilium Jet.

Mr Enders is the latest aviation executive to join innovative start-ups racing to transform short-range travel. Climate change activists have pressured the aviation industry to shift towards more sustainable flights.