Flying Taxis Could Poach Airline Passengers, Avolon Says | Invest News


PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus and Boeing are careful – one of the world’s largest aircraft owners says passenger planes could see their wings cut off by the rapid spread of flying taxi startups.

Commercial air transport already faces competition from high-speed trains in some parts of the world. But the head of Irish aircraft leasing company Avolon said the competition would move to the skies as he has invested up to $ 2 billion in airline shuttles.

Avolon is among the launch customers of up to 1,000 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) aircraft under development by Britain’s Vertical Aerospace, which plans to go public through a merger with a company of blank control.

German airline shuttle start-up Lilium announced in March that it would enter the U.S. stock market through a similar process.

The agreements reflect growing interest in battery-powered planes that can take off and land vertically, offering a new way for travelers to beat traffic and jump between cities.

Vertical’s VA-X4 has a range of 120 miles, but that could be extended further, Avolon general manager Domhnal Slattery said Thursday evening.

“The challenge for the incumbent (planners) is that if the range can extend up to 400-500 miles, what is the implication for traditional narrow planes?” he said in an interview with Reuters.

When asked if the four-passenger, one-pilot vehicles could take business from much larger commercial jets, Slattery said, “Ultimately, yes of course. It’s the inevitable future.”

The planemakers have invested themselves in such projects.

Helicopter travel could also be reduced.

“You must be thinking that you have these machines that can disintermediate traditional helicopters by being just 100 times quieter and emissions-free,” Slattery said.

Avolon has placed a firm order for 310 eVTOLs worth $ 1.25 billion and 190 options worth $ 750 million, Slattery said.

They will join a owned or managed fleet of 568 passenger planes up to the 396-seat Boeing 777-300ER.

Slattery said Avolon has not decided how to deploy air taxis, whose relatively short product development cycles mark a change for rental companies accustomed to long-term investments in aircraft.

“We could partner with airlines, we could establish our own entities in different jurisdictions around the world, we could partner with helicopter operators,” Slattery said.

“I think it’s going to take a lot of different forms over time. But the technology is there and we’re going to be leading the commercialization of it with zero-emission credentials.”

The move comes at a time when airlines are scrambling for leadership on the environmental agenda as they come under pressure from investors to help decarbonize flights and boost their environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores.

Vertical Aerospace says eVTOL aircraft can help industry meet carbon reduction targets through zero emissions and electric power, if possible derived from renewable energies.

But experts say questions remain about the timeline for security certification, which eVOTL vendors expect as early as 2024.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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