Airbus and Alitalia successor ITA Airways have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on urban air mobility (UAM) in Italy. The agreement, announced on April 27, calls on the companies to recruit local partners to participate in the launch of operations with the CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft, now under development. The parties also agreed to identify pilot cases with the goal of securing public acceptance of UAM by local communities.
“The partnership between ITA Airways and Airbus started with the evolution toward more modern, more comfortable and environmentally-friendly commercial aircraft, equipped with cutting-edge technologies”, said Alfredo Altavilla, chairman of ITA Airways. “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.”
A fully electric vehicle equipped with fixed wings, a V-shaped tail, and eight electrically powered propellers, the CityAirbus NextGen would carry up to four passengers to a range of 50 mile and a cruise speed of 75 mph. Airbus last September announced plans to fly the first prototype in 2023 and earn type certification in 2025. Building on extensive flight trials with the CityAirbus and Vahana technology demonstrators, Airbus intends to certify the CityAirbus NextGen under EASA’s Special Conditions-VTOL rules.
The CityAirbus NextGen design marks a significant change in approach after the earlier technology demonstrators, mainly with the introduction of a wing. Based on lessons learned from the CityAirbus and Vahana projects, engineers have determined that neither the propellers nor the wing will tilt.
CityAirbus’s main objectives include environmental sustainability and the company’s work on the eVTOL forms part of a wider green aviation strategy that encompasses Airbus’s ZeroE program to bring hydrogen-powered airliners to market by 2035. The work benefits from significant financial and political support from the French government and the European Union.
Italian flag carrier ITA began operations in 2021, following the restructuring of Alitalia, and named sustainability as one of the fundamental pillars of its business plan, expressing an interest in projects aimed at decarbonizing aviation, including eVTOL operations. ITA recently directly purchased 28 aircraft from Airbus, including seven A220s, 11 A320neos, and 10 A330neos. Plans call for the Airbus A350 also to join the company’s fleet this summer.