Developments in advanced aerial mobility (AAM) are heating up amid a flurry of moves by deep-pocketed, traditional airline players. And Bristol-based electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company Vertical Aerospace has been at the center of most of it.
Major airline leaser buys 500 eVTOL craft
Among those announcements was Avolon’s order of as many as 500 of Vertical Aerospace’s electric eVTOL craft. Avolon is among the world’s top 10 aircraft leasing firms, and its purchase is valued at over $2 billion. It also represents a major actor in traditional aircraft transportation investing in sustainable, next-generation AAM craft as a future growth area.
Central to that transaction is Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 eVTOL. The craft is designed to carry four passengers to destinations up to 100 miles away at top speeds of 200 mph. The VA-X4 is attracting considerable attention from companies interested in operating future air taxi services. Yet, the craft’s range makes it a candidate for medium-haul destinations as well.
The Avolon-Vertical Aerospace deal was described as drawing on the respective strengths of both companies: Avolon’s scale and deep partnerships with traditional airlines; and Vertical Aerospace’s cutting edge tech and eVTOL hardware that traditional transporters are looking to for future AAM activity.
Cross deals creating multiple AAM partnerships
The pair said they’d work together to facilitate the development, certification, and evental commercial roll-out of the VA-X4. Avolon hailed the move as additional proof of traditional airline sector companies embracing sustainable, environmentally friendly, yet efficient AAM transport options.
“Avolon is proud to be a launch customer for the VA-X4 aircraft, demonstrating our commitment to a net-zero carbon economy and to driving innovation in the global aviation sector,” said Avolon CEO Dómhnal Slattery. “Our order with Vertical will also accelerate the inevitable commercial roll-out of zero-emissions aircraft. Before the end of this decade, we expect zero-emission urban air mobility, enabled by eVTOLs, to play an increasingly important role in the global commercial aviation market.”
That development was followed by carriers Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines inking deals of their own with Vertical Aerospace.
Virgin agreed to buy 150 VA-X4s. Those may be used under a joint venture Virgin is studying to operate electric aircraft services linking major UK cities and airport hubs – initially London platforms Heathrow and Gatwick and Manchester airport. American committed to 250 VA-X4s and an option for another 100, worth a total of $2.2 billion.
All that movement around Vertical Aerospace has also produced overlapping links among the various participants. Avolon, for example, will become an equity investor in Vertical Aerospace alongside American Airlines, Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, and Honeywell. Avolon also says it plans on working with Virgin as the airline advances plans for VA-X4 service across the UK and Europe.
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