‘Flying Taxi’ Company Vertical Aerospace Soars On NYSE Debut

Vertical Aerospace is pushing ahead with plans to achieve certification for its proposed electric air-taxis, following a successful initial public offering in New York late last week.

Shares in the company, which went public through a merger with blank-check firm Broadstone Acquisition Corp., and uses the ticker symbol EVTL, rose sharply after its NYSE debut.

The Bristol-based company said it is scouting locations for a manufacturing plant, but this remains hypothetical until it secures certification of its proposed aircraft – currently known as the VX4.

Vertical hopes to have its zero-emissions, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) taxis flying across in cities across the world within three to five years.

Concept design of Vertical Aerospace’s VX4 ‘air taxi’. Image credit: Vertical Aerospace

Flying taxi

The VX4 is projected to achieve a top speed of 200 mph, noise levels 100 times quieter than those of a helicopter and a four-passenger capacity at costs similar to a taxi ride.

It sees a key market being rides connecting outlying suburban areas to and from local airports.

However, unlike some other eVTOL start-ups, Vertical is planning to focus the company solely on producing vehicles, leaving services to third parties.

It has secured pre-orders for up to 1,350 aircraft worth $5.4 billion (£4bn) from the likes of American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, with American Airlines also being one of its key backers.

Another initial investor, aircraft leasing firm Avolon, ordered 500 of the vehicles in June of this year. Additional backers include Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, Microsoft’s M12, Rocket, 40North and Kouros.

Honeywell is to supply flight deck technologies, with Rolls-Royce providing the electrical power system.

Mass production

Vertical’s initial aircraft, the VA-X1, secured flight permission from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 2018, followed by the VA-X2 in 2019 and the VA-X4 last year. The latter was rebranded the VX4 earlier this month.

Avolon chief executive Dómhnal Slattery said Vertical has “the right aircraft, deep industry experience, and the financing in place to achieve the highest global safety certification and scale production to meet demand”.

Vertical is aiming to reach full flight certification through the European Union Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) by 2024 and to initiate mass production of the VX4 immediately afterward.

A concept image of the VX4. Image credit: Vertical Aerospace

Certification challenge

Next year it plans to stage the VX4’s first test flight, Design Organisation Approval (DOA) and finalising the design phase, followed by Production Organisation Approval (POA) in 2023 and Type Certification in 2024.

Vertical founder and chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick acknowledged to Reuters that certification was the “key challenge” and said the company is giving itself a window of 2024-25 to achieve this.

“We are going to have these aircraft flying over cities all over the world in not less than three years but not more than five,” he said.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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