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Eyes on eVTOL

Down to business—and out of this world

One strong measure of the growing acceptance of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) has been the willingness of several airlines to sign up with them.
Vertical Aerospace
Vertical Aerospace

In the past year or so, some airlines have signed purchase agreements, among them American Airlines. One eVTOL design in particular, Vertical Aerospace’s VX4—a design from the U.K.—has attracted a lot of attention. American signed a preorder agreement to buy 250 VX4s, with an option to buy 100 more. This deal represents about $1 billion in sales. It’s all part of American’s efforts to invest in fuel-efficient aircraft across the board, which includes moves to buy some $9 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to demonstrate its commitment to environmentally friendly policies. The VX4, a five-seater, claims a 200-mph maximum cruise and a 100-mile maximum range.

Through special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Vertical Aerospace has even gone public on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: EVTL) in a deal valued at $2.2 billion. The company says it has conditional preorders for 1,000 eVTOLs worth $4.4 billion.

Through Irish leasing company Avolon, which has ordered 500 of Vertical Aerospace’s VX4 eVTOLs, agreements to lease up to 100 of the eVTOLs have been made with Turkey’s Freebird Airlines, and a similar deal was made with Air Greenland, pending an assessment of demand. Partnerships with American, Rolls-Royce, Virgin Atlantic, Honeywell, and Microsoft have also been formed.

United Airlines announced a partnership with Archer Aviation, and plans to use Makers to shuttle passengers to Los Angeles International Airport. Brazilian manufacturer Embraer is working on a partnership with Republic Airways to explore opportunities to use its Eve eVTOL. And while it’s not an airline, fractional ownership giant NetJets announced plans to buy 150 Lilium eVTOLs.

This all sounds pretty heady. Let’s all remember that these deals may not all be firm. Many contracts may be in the form of letters of intent, or memoranda of understanding, or conditional on any number of contingencies. Then there’s the matter of certification and manufacturing. Those dates keep moving to the right. The VX4 says first deliveries could come in 2024; ditto for the Maker. Lilium says it will sell its first units in 2025. We’ll keep an eye on things.

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Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.

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