Kitty Hawk Flying Car Startup Faces Safety Concerns

Two employees were allegedly let go after speaking out about the issues

Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk
By Bonnie Stiernberg / December 2, 2019 10:12 am

Back in 2017, Kitty Hawk, the flying car startup from Sebastian Thrun and Google co-founder Larry Page, seemed set on reinventing air travel with the Flyer, their single-seat, battery-powered vehicle designed to bring personal flight to the masses. But a new Forbes article reveals that the company has been plagued by technical failures and safety concerns.

The publication spoke to several former employees of the company, who said that managers brushed off safety concerns and at least two members of the flight test team were let go after raising questions about the Flyer.

“It was a pattern — if you talked about safety you were done, so you just didn’t,” one former Kitty Hawk employee said. “That’s just how it had to be if you wanted to keep getting a paycheck.”

The article cites problems like frequent breakdowns and battery fires, but the company insists that they’ve never put anyone in harm’s way.

“No person has ever been harmed or exposed due to undue risk in over 26,000 test flights with over 100 prototype vehicles,” Shernaz Daver, an advisor to Kitty Hawk, said in a statement to Forbes.

In the meantime, the company is reimagining the Flyer as a service instead of a vehicle intended for personal use. As Forbes points out, Kitty Hawk has reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard to see how they would classify Flyer. “We are taking a deliberate look at determining what these vehicles are, as that determination will set precedence for years or decades to come regarding their place in the marine transportation system,” a Coast Guard spokesperson said.

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