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Air Taxis Keep Crashing, Bursting Into Flames in Testing Phase

Little-noticed accidents have struck leading companies. The industry says it’s thriving and that failure is necessary.

Joby’s all-electric aircraft.
Joby’s all-electric aircraft.Source: Joby Aviation Inc.

One prototype air taxi suffered a software glitch, lost control and nosed into a field. Another’s computer erroneously thought it was on the ground, shutting off power in flight and plunging it onto the pavement. Batteries on two more burst into flames.

The race to develop a new family of flying machines to whisk people and cargo across traffic-choked cities has drawn billions of dollars of investment and vast promise. But some of the biggest names in aviation have had accidents during testing, according to a Bloomberg review of reports dating back to 2018. They include Boeing Co. and its subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., Textron Inc.’s Bell helicopter division, billionaire Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk Corp., Joby Aviation Inc. and German air-taxi pioneer Lilium NV.