A plane created by British startup Vertical Aerospace successfully completed its first test flight, the company said Monday, marking a breakthrough in aviation industry that seems increasingly interested in new types of passenger air travel.
The flying taxis, like the VX aircraft, produce zero emissions and are capable of speeds in excess of 200 mph and a range of more than 100 miles, according to a company statement. The VX uses electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology, powered by a battery instead of jet fuel.
“This is an important milestone for the company. As you can imagine, it’s just the beginning, but it’s also the culmination of years of work; Vertical has been preparing for this day since 2016,” said Vertical Aerospace.
Airlines and technology companies have sought to enter the emerging air taxi industry, and as the entire aviation industry prepares to reach zero emissions by 2050, defined by the International Air Transport Association, companies are developing clean fuel vehicles.
This arouses widespread interest. According to Allied Market Research, the electric air taxi sector is expected to be worth $3.39 billion in 2030.
In August, United Airlines made a $10 million down payment for 100 eVTOL vehicles to Archer Aviation, an American electric airline. The airline also signed a purchase agreement for up to 400 eVTOLS from another company, Eve Air Mobility.
Vertical Aerospace says the test flight of the VX was conducted on a flight deck with a pilot to demonstrate how the aircraft complies with strict safety regulations. The vehicle remained anchored to the ground for safety as its propellers pushed it off the ground.
The company said it aims to achieve full VX certification by 2025 and reports significant demand from airlines, lessors and travel companies. American Airlines ordered 250 VXs in June 2021, and Virgin Airlines ordered 150 VXs designed to carry four passengers on short 30-minute flights. The company said in a statement that AirAsia and Japan Airlines have also shown interest in launching flying taxis.
The price point of these air taxis may determine their commercial use. Initially, the price of a flying taxi ride would be comparable to Uber Black services, Michael Leskinen, CEO of United Airlines Ventures, told the Wall Street Journal in August. He gave the example of a trip from Manhattan to the New York airport costing $110 to $120, noting that those costs could decrease over time.
The flight lasted approximately 10 minutes and was conducted in the hangar. Longer flights at higher altitudes are planned before the aircraft is put into commercial use.
That’s good news for American Airlines, which last year agreed to buy 250 VX planes and use them to transport passengers to and from airports until 2025. American invested $25 million in Vertical Aerospace. Last month, United Airlines similarly paid Archer Aviation $10 million up front for 100 electric flying taxis.
In addition to investing in high-speed short flights, American Airlines recently agreed to purchase 20 supersonic aircraft for high-speed transoceanic flights. United Airlines is said to be buying 15 of the same planes. The supersonic planes are expected to hit runways in 2029, four years after the VX Flying Taxi is expected to carry its first passengers.
No word yet on which airports might see the new plane or how much the flight might cost. American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.