Are you tired of being stuck in traffic? Consider a future in which your taxi flies into the sky and settles on top of your office building, where it recharges and then starts off again. That's the ambition of Stephen Fitzpatrick, the creator and CEO of Vertical Aerospace in the United Kingdom, which plans to raise $394 million through a merger with a blank-cheque New York-listed business, and believes his planes will be flying by the mid-2020s. And he's not the only one. Vertical's idea for zero-emission mini-aircraft to almost silently transport four passengers across the sky for up to 120 miles has attracted the attention of some of the world's most prominent engineers and airlines (193kms).
The merger will include American Airlines, aircraft lessor Avolon, engineers Honeywell and Rolls-Royce, and Microsoft's M12 subsidiary. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. Vertical flights between London's Heathrow airport and its Canary Wharf financial area would take 15 minutes and cost GBP 50 per passenger, according to Fitzpatrick, who also founded OVO Energy, the UK's third largest energy supplier. Airlines are taking notice of this possibility. Customers have placed pre-orders for over 1,000 VA-X4 aircraft. The interest in zero-emission aircraft comes at a time when investors are putting increasing pressure on aviation businesses to help decarbonize the industry and improve their environmental, social, and governance ratings.
"We're going to make agreements. We're getting a lot of interest and demand from airlines, which is great "Reuters spoke with Fitzpatrick. Vertical's main issue, according to Fitzpatrick, is certifying its aircraft, which it plans to achieve by the end of 2024 with extra money from the merger. Fitzpatrick came up with the concept in 2015 while stuck in ten lanes of congestion in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There weren't many rivals back then, he added, but experts now estimate that over 100 firms are working on competing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) planes. The VA-X4 is still being built, but test flights will begin early next year.
Vertical's alliances, according to Fitzpatrick, will help it win. Fitzpatrick has "no doubt" that the VA-X4 will fly, thanks to battery technology from the automobile sector, as well as tried-and-true electrical propulsion units and motors, and Honeywell's electronics. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency will be in charge of certification (EASA). "The procedure for certifying the aircraft is well understood. Although the technologies are novel, the procedures we must take are comparable to those required for previous aircraft "Fitzpatrick has enlisted the help of top engineers from both Airbus and Rolls-Royce.
Other obstacles, such as infrastructure, come with developing a new form of transportation, but Fitzpatrick remains optimistic. "We're already in talks with Heathrow Airport, for example," he added, pointing out his office window at possible rooftop skyport locations. Airlines come in handy when it comes to persuading passengers. "I believe that the brand link with well-known airlines would help travelers accept new technologies," he added.