Airline announces electric air-taxi scheme

Virgin Atlantic has announced it is working on a new partnership which would lead to the launch of a sustainable and zero emissions short haul air service in the UK.

The airline has entered into a UK joint venture with Vertical Aerospace, to deliver a Virgin Atlantic branded short haul eVTOL network. The scheme has the potential for up to 150 eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft to be brought into service if the scheme proves viable.

The fully-electric VA-X4 is a zero emissions, near silent aircraft with a range of over 100 miles and it will carry four passengers in addition to a pilot. The VA-X4 has four tilting advanced rotors at the front and stowable rotors at the rear, capable of speeds over 200mph, and is set to revolutionise urban mobility and electrify air travel, with certification to the same safety standards as commercial airliners. A full-scale prototype of the VA-X4 is currently in production and the first test flight is planned for later this year.

“The goal is to enable sustainable, price competitive, regional connectivity across the first and last 100 miles of the customer journey,” said the airline. “For example, reducing the 56-mile journey from Cambridge to London Heathrow to just 22 minutes, in comparison to a 1 hour 30 drive by road. With 37 towns and cities with populations over 100,000 within 100 miles of London Heathrow Airport, the VA-X4 offers huge potential to support zero emissions short haul transfers for 7.7 million customers outside of London, for flights to and from the UK’s main hub airport.”

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “With innovation and sustainability leadership firmly in our DNA, we are excited to be partnering with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions air travel in the UK. We pride ourselves on building enduring strategic partnerships and are thrilled to be working alongside Vertical in its mission to bring eVTOL travel to the UK. Our partnership includes an option for Virgin Atlantic to acquire up to 150 eVTOL VA-X4 aircraft and exploration of a Joint Venture to bring short haul, electric vehicle connectivity to cities and our UK airport hubs, starting with London Heathrow as well as Manchester and London Gatwick. Combining the design, engineering and manufacturing expertise of Vertical with the award-winning customer experience and operational excellence of Virgin Atlantic.”

Under the scheme Vertical Aerospace and Virgin Atlantic will seek to establish short haul, electric aircraft connectivity between UK cities and airport hubs starting with London Heathrow, Manchester and London Gatwick. Commercial operations of the VA-X4 are planned for 2024 following European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) certification.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical CEO and Founder, said: “This is the most exciting time in aviation for almost a century; electrification will transform flying in the 21st century in the same way the jet engine did 70 years ago. By bringing together two entrepreneurial organisations who share the same passion for innovation and best in class partnerships, we can revolutionise urban mobility in the UK and electrify air travel. We look forward to working closely with Virgin Atlantic and completely changing how people think about flying through the skies.”

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