The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

South Korean Airline Hi-Air Plans To Operate Plana's Hybrid-electric VTOL Aircraft

South Korean regional airline Hi-Air plans to add 30 of Plana's CP-01 hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft under a letter of intent signed on July 17. Under the agreement, Plana, which is also based in Korea, will deliver the first 10 aircraft in 2031, with the remaining 20 to follow later.

Seoul-based Hi-Air started operations in 2019 and currently operates four ATR72-500 twin turboprop aircraft across a network consisting of four cities in South Korea and three in Japan. It has not yet said where it will operate Plana's CP-01, which is expected to carry a pilot and six passengers on sectors of up to 500 kilometers (313 miles).

Under the agreement, Plana will work with Hi-Air to develop business models for passenger and cargo services using its VTOL model. The manufacturer has previously reported provisional sales under letters of intent signed by U.S. carrier Ghenus Air (20 aircraft) and Japan's SkyTaxi (50 aircraft).

Last week, Plana announced that it is joining forces with Gloria Aviation, a Seoul-based company that trains aviation professionals, to cultivate the workforce for the rapidly growing advanced air mobility (AAM) industry. 

Under a memorandum of understanding signed on July 11, Plana and Gloria Aviation committed to forming a joint business dedicated to training the new AAM workforce, including maintenance technicians and pilots that will fly new aircraft such as eVTOL air taxis. Along with a specialized education program, the partners will develop qualification standards for AAM workers and research best practices for the operation and maintenance of AAM vehicles.

“The aviation industry is facing a major technological turning point with the introduction of electric aircraft, and like [other] electric vehicles, electric aircraft will become an easily accessible mode of transportation for the general public within a few decades,” said Dae-hyun Shin, CEO of Gloria Aviation. “We expect that Plana’s hybrid aircraft will contribute to the stabilization of electric aircraft by providing a technical buffer during the conversion process to pure electric power.”

Gloria Aviation is a global provider of aviation services, and it claims to be the first company to operate an aviation-specialized school in Korea. Its educational institutions include Korea Aviation College and Gloria Flight Academy. The company also owns a fleet of helicopters that are used for VIP transport services, medical evacuations, and firefighting. 

Plana, which is based in the Giheung-gu district just south of Seoul, is developing a hybrid-electric VTOL air taxi that it says will be capable of carrying six passengers plus one pilot on trips of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles). Its design features four tilting rotors installed in pairs at the tips of the wing and a canard, plus two pusher propellers at the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft can take off and land either conventionally like an airplane or vertically like a helicopter.

The company has already begun flight testing with a one-fifth scale model of its hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft, and it is preparing to participate in the K-UAM Grand Challenge urban air mobility flight demonstration project that is being organized by Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport later this year.

“Through this agreement, we will be able to train manpower and technology that are the most important factors in the aviation industry,” said Plana chief product officer Jinmo Lee. “We will continue to contribute to the growth and activation of the AAM market and strive to build a competitive AAM ecosystem at home and abroad.”