Vertical Aerospace, Heathrow explore airport eVTOL flights [Update]

Vertical Heathrow eVTOL

The UK’s leading electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft producer, Vertical Aerospace, has struck a deal with London’s Heathrow Airport to examine integration and use of its craft at Europe’s biggest passenger air platform.

The agreement calls for Vertical to look into flying its Vertical’s VA-X4 eVTOL vehicles to shuttle travelers between Heathrow and central London destinations within the next few years. In addition to brass tack operational and safety procedures, the joint research will also anticipate regulatory modifications necessary to pilot the craft at the airport; estimate and fully exploit job creation opportunities involved; and interact with local communities to limit potential negative consequences of the new aerial services.

The Vertical VA-X4 eVTOL is designed to carry four passengers at top speeds of 202 mph. Driven by carbon-free battery power, the plane can fly over 100 miles on a single charge, and produce just 45 decibels at cruising velocity ­– 100 times quieter than a helicopter, according to the company. Vertical says its eVTOL will make the London-Heathrow trip in about 12 minutes, around a quarter of the time – but about the same price – of a taxi on an average, traffic-snarled day. 

Indeed, along with reducing carbon emissions around the airport, a major objective of Vertical’s focus will be helping to ease the often maddening road congestion to and from Heathrow.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Vertical, a global champion in emissions-free aviation,” said Chris Annetts, chief strategy officer of Heathrow. “This emerging technology has the potential to reduce congestion and pollution on local roads, while providing passengers with a best-in-class experience on the cutting edge of modern technology.”

Its partnering with Heathrow further enhances the advantageous position Vertical has staked out vis-à-vis rivals in approaching eVTOL business. It previously signed an accord with Virgin Atlantic to launch an eVTOL network in the UK, along with the airline’s pre-order for up to 150 VA-X4s craft of its own. It has similarly struck working relationships with Rolls-Royce, Honeywell, American Airlines, Bristow Group, and Microsoft.

All in all, Vertical says it has booked pre-orders for 1,350 aircraft worth $5.4 billion.

October 30 Update

In the wake of its Heathrow partnership announcement, Vertical revealed it had received $200 million in new development funding from Mudrick Capital management.

A Vertical press release said that Mudrick, “a global investment firm focused on special situation investing, will invest $200 million in Vertical through convertible senior secured notes. In addition, Kouros SA, a firm specializing in investments to decarbonize transport and energy production, will invest $5 million in Vertical’s PIPE alongside American Airlines, Avolon, Honeywell, Microsoft’s M12 and Rolls-Royce.”

Officials at Vertical hailed the increased support as another major step towards launching next generation advance air mobility craft capable of transforming carbon-producing traffic from the roads into clean, fast, and safe transport alternatives in the sky.”

“Vertical continues to partner with world leading organizations… [and] this partnership is a big step forward as we try to get the UK to Net Zero by 2050,” said Vertical founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick. “This announcement marks the start of an exciting relationship that will help make eVTOLs flying from Heathrow by the mid-2020s a reality.”

Vertical’s agreement to prepare Heathrow for swiftly advancing eVTOL craft services follows last week’s deal by airports in Italy and France to create a shared company to oversee construction and management of veliports for future air taxi flights between their terminals and the cities they serve.

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