Italian flag carrier ITA Airways is joining forces with Airbus in an effort to develop urban air mobility (UAM) opportunities in Italy, particularly for the European consortium’s CityAirbus NextGen electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air taxi.
The companies have a long relationship founded on ITA Airways and its previous incarnation, Alitalia, purchasing and operating Airbus planes in its large fleet of traditional craft. Now the two want to extend that with emerging sustainable eVTOL options like the CityAirbus NextGen, which will primarily be used for air taxi and other short distance UAM services.
Under their new agreement, the partners will work to promote and nurture the adoption of next-generation air transport across Italy generally – including efforts to encourage public familiarity and acceptance of the activity. As part of that broader process, they’ll welcome aboard local and regional stakeholders.
More specifically, meanwhile, the companies want to identify and pursue opportunities for the CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL to be used in pilot programs preparing the launch of widespread air taxi operation in Italy.
Given the chronically clogged state of its larger cities, Italy is considered by many air transport experts as a prime candidate in Europe for embracing eVTOL and other UAM activity to lift some of that traffic into the skies.
Getting a piece of that action would be a potentially promising future activity and revenue source for ITA Airways, which continues operating in the financially troubled shadow of its Alitalia legacy.
“With this agreement, our partnership expands to the segment of urban air mobility for a wider, customer-centric, innovative and sustainable offer for our customers,” said Alfredo Altavilla, Chairman of ITA Airways.
Given their longstanding relationship with traditional aircraft, the two companies partnering up to develop UAM and air taxi activity using the CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL is a natural move. Airbus has been working on both large and small electric-powered planes since 2014, and now believes the current version of its craft can earn European certification by the end of 2025.
Airbus’ four-person (including pilot) fixed-wing eVTOL air taxi is driven by eight propellers to a cruising speed of 120 km/h over a maximum range of 80 km. By replacing combustion engines with battery power, the CityAirbus NextGen will generate just 65 dBa of noise during overhead flight, and 70 dBa during takeoff and landings.
Though no contracts are known to have been signed for ITA Airlines to buy and operate the CityAirbus NextGen, Airbus officials clearly believe the extension of their partnership to promote air taxi and other UAM services in Italy will increase the possibility of that occurring.
“This agreement is testimony to the strong relationship between Airbus and ITA Airways,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. “It is an opportunity to leverage our shared ambition – pioneering sustainable aerospace – and advance new air mobility solutions for zero-emission vertical flight in support of our cities and communities later this decade.”