Acting FAA chief expected to join air taxi firm Archer Aviation -- sources

Flying taxi company Archer Aviation unveils all-electric aircraft in Los Angeles

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acting chief Billy Nolen is expected to take a position with electric air taxi firm Archer Aviation after he leaves the agency, sources told Reuters.

Asked for comment on whether Nolen was joining Archer, the FAA said "Billy Nolen is departing the FAA in the coming weeks and is continuing to ensure a smooth transition at the agency." Archer Aviation declined to comment.

California-based Archer said earlier this month it had completed final assembly of its first "Midnight" electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The Midnight can carry four passengers and a pilot and has a range of up to 100 miles.

On April 21, Nolen said he planned to depart the agency this summer after the White House nominates a new administrator. In March, Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington withdrew his nomination to serve as FAA administrator after Republican criticism.

Nolen's departure email said "we will see eVTOLs certified in just a few years, instead of decades.... Not since the dawn of the jet age have we seen so many advances and changes in aerospace."

It is not clear who will serve as acting FAA administrator once Nolen leaves but sources say the Biden administration is considering Katie Thomson, the agency's current chief of staff.

In January, Archer said carmaker Stellantis will help build Archer's electric aircraft that will be manufactured in Covington, Georgia, starting in 2024, with a production target of 2,300 aircraft annually.

Archer is conducting a series of ground tests leading up to its planned first flight this summer and a goal of entering into service in 2025.

Stellantis and United Airlines are both investors in Archer.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)