Former Chief Executive Officer of Airbus SE, Tom Enders has joined the board of urban air mobility startup Lilium.

Enders, who has nearly thirty years of industry experience, spent seven years at the helm of Airbus before stepping down in 2019. Lilium, which was founded in 2015, aims to operate an all-electric eVTOL five-seater flying taxi which has a range of 300 km (185 miles). The Munich-based company has already agreed deals to open its first transportation hub in Düsseldorf, with a second in Orlando, Florida scheduled for 2025. The company also has an agreement with Cologne Bonn airport.

“Tom obviously brings massive experience from some of the largest global aerospace programmes and running one of the two biggest aerospace companies,” Lilium CEO Daniel Wiegand said in an interview on Monday.

Nimbler startups have rare advantage

With the climate crisis putting pressure on aviation to move towards emission free flights, shorter development timelines have meant startups have gained a rare advantage over established aerospace firms. Enders joins a growing list of aviation executives crossing over from major aerospace companies to startups as a the race towards a cleaner future and urban air mobility gets closer.

In a blog on Lilium’s website Enders wrote: “Lilium is on its way from visionary startup to serious aircraft manufacturer and service provider. 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?”

“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.”

Lilium is valued at more than $1 billion, after raising $275 million across two rounds last year from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., Atomico and later Baillie Gifford & Co.

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