UK-based eVTOL manufacturer Vertical Aerospace signed major deals with American Airlines and FlyingGroup, the company announced on July 15.
American Airlines has reserved delivery slots and secured pre-delivery payments for 50 of Vertical’s VX4 eVTOL aircraft, an agreement that Vertical said is the first of its kind for a major airline in the eVTOL market. The airline had placed a conditional preorder of up to 250 of Vertical’s zero-emissions aircraft in June 2021, with an option for an additional 100 units.
“Together, we are making zero-emissions flight a reality for passengers traveling all over the world,” said Vertical founder and CEO Stephen Patrick. “We look forward to continuing our work with American and seeing the first red, white, and blue VX4 come off the production line.”
“Our partnership with Vertical is a great example of progress in our commitment to reducing carbon emissions throughout our airline and the industry,” said American Airlines CFO Derek Kerr. “We have made great strides in simplifying our fleet with newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft, and are proud to take part in another step toward the development of advanced air mobility.”
Meanwhile, European business jet operator FlyingGroup has conditionally preordered up to 50 VX4 aircraft of its own. This purchase represents Vertical’s first commercial agreement in the business aviation market.
FlyingGroup and Vertical have agreed to launch a joint working group to explore possible applications for the VX4 in FlyingGroup’s fleet. The two companies are also discussing terms and conditions of a maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) service center that would allow FlyingGroup to service its own VX4 fleet and support those operated by others.
“Going electric is the next big step in our sustainability plan,” said FlyingGroup founder Bernard van Milders. “Not only will we be expanding our fleet with the most advanced electric eVTOLs, we will be able to accommodate our clients and guests with the newest zero-carbon ‘door-to-door’ private and business aviation.”
Vertical now has an order backlog of up to 1,400 VX4s between FlyingGroup, American Airlines, and its other customers, which include Virgin Atlantic, Avalon, and Bristow. The total value of these preorders amounts to about $5.6 billion, according to Vertical.
The VX4, which is still under development, will be a fully electric, zero-emissions eVTOL that can seat up to four passengers and a pilot. It will have a range of at least 100 miles (160 km) on a single charge and a cruise speed of 202 mph (325 km/h).
Its design features multiple tilting rotors attached to a fixed wing, and Vertical claims it will be 100 times quieter and cheaper to operate than a helicopter. The company has recently partnered with Molicel, a Taiwanese lithium-ion battery maker, to create the VX4’s battery system.
Vertical said it aims to complete type certification for the VX4 in 2024 under the special condition VTOL rules developed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. That would put the aircraft on track to enter service in Europe by 2025.