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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 turbo-fan 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’ joining Lilium’s 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 co-founder 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 take-off and landing aircraft aimed at relatively short-distance flights.
“Lilium is on its way from visionary start-up to serious aircraft manufacturer and service provider,” Enders said. “This is a rocky and by no means risk-free road. But how are we going to move aviation forward if not with fresh ideas and courageous young entrepreneurs?”
Lilium is aiming to begin commercial flights of its air taxis in 2025 and has already announced several locations around the world where it plans to run intercity transport networks, including in airports in Dusseldorf, Cologne/Bonn, in Germany, and Orlando, Fla.
The company has raised more than $375 million in venture capital to date, from investors that include U.K. asset manager Baillie Gifford, China’s Tencent, and Atomico, the London-based venture capital firm founded by billionaire and former Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom.
While founded in 2015 by a group of young engineers from the Technical University in Munich, Lilium has hired a number of aerospace industry veterans, including from Airbus, to work at the startup. These include Yves Yemsi, who oversees the company’s jet aircraft program, and was previously head of Airbus’s defense and space division and had been a top executive on the Airbus A350 program. It also includes Dick Gebser, Lilium’s chief manufacturing officer, who had overseen Airbus’s assembly of both the A380 and A320 aircraft.
Enders, who spent led Airbus from 2007 to 2019, is also an experienced helicopter pilot and passionate skydiver, who has also served as a major in the reserves of Germany’s airborne army division.
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