Plenty of airlines have made announcements about getting involved in the urban mobility market, but industry newsletter TransportUp says American is the first to actually put some skin in the game. Last year, American said it would buy up to 250 Vertical Aerospace VX4 eVTOLs but like all of those other deals it was PR. American announced on Friday it has reserved 50 delivery slots and will write a check to hold them. “The commitment to pay pre-delivery payments and confirmation of slot reservations for the first 50 aircraft is believed to be the first for a major airline in the eVTOL industry, marking a significant milestone in the partnership between American and Vertical and a historical event for aerial mobility,” TransportUp said in its story on the deal.
Vertical has other customers and they’ve put up money, too, but the American deal is, well, a big deal. “Together, we are making zero-emissions flight a reality for passengers traveling all over the world,” said Vertical CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick. American CFO Derek Kerr said the airline is working on all aspects of its business to lessen its environmental impact and is “proud to take part in another step toward the development of advanced air mobility.” The VX4 carries four passengers and a pilot and the company says it will fly 100 miles at 175 knots. The motor pylons rotate for vertical flight and the wing provides lift for cruise.
It was Stephen Budiansky who said that with aircraft (before WW1) it was easier to change the reality than perceptions of what was possible.
I was on the beach yesterday and there was a teenager trying to use a drone to get photos of the naked women. It made so much noise and was so obvious, that he got lots of moon shots before being chased away.
So to change the reality there remains little questions about noise (the teenager’s toy was the size of a dinner plate and made more noise than a baby bee motor used to), battery life, range, weight and aerospace laws. But people have seen computer simulations and so the perception is that flying urban taxis will be at an airport near you, ready to take you to your front door, tomorrow.
Well, maybe not *tomorrow* but if you think this is simply not going to happen then I’d respectfully suggest you are *very* wrong. The reality is that the technology for, initially limited range, vehicles of this type is available right now. The trick is putting it all together in a financially attractive package that is practical and safe. The other major hurdle is one of regulation inertia.
On the range front, an hour’s endurance is absolutely enough for intra city use (probably where the money is for now) particularly if battery-swap technology is used but battery technology advances will improve the range quickly making even 2 hours flight time a realistic likelihood in a relatively short timeframe. Given how dramatic the improvement in specific and volumetric battery energy density has been in the last 20 years, I would easily expect a doubling in less than 5 years.
I, too, had recent experience of a (DJI) drone and at a distance of 50m it was virtually inaudible – but it was quite windy at the time. And noise, like battery technology, can, of course, be improved.
If you ask me, it’s the regulation and related legal issues that are the biggest hurdle. Not only do they slow getting new solutions to market, they suppress innovation and discovery in the first place. Also, the government, in it’s strangely insidious way, has reduced the pace of discovery by funding research. It was all going really well at first, but it’s become a drag somehow. I don’t understand it, but it seems related to housing and education where we added government money, got results, added more, and then the whole thing went south.
I checked my grocery store the other day and noticed that all the Kool-Aid was gone. Statements supporting these silly coal-powered Rube Goldbergs explain who is drinking the stuff these days.
Again with the “zero emissions” lie. Zero emitted at the site of the aircraft but a big long invisible trail of emissions at the power plant, battery factory, battery recycle facility, etc. If you don’t think the power plant will pollute then you need to consider the long tail of emissions of the solar panel manufacturer or the enormous windmill manufacturers and the limited life and disposal mess for these things. Most of our energy comes from hydrocarbons. Even nuclear has a long tail of emissions in mining, refinement and manufacturing. The global hysteria over CO2 emissions ignores the basic fact that CO2 is one of the feedstocks for photosynthesis and therefore vital to all life on earth.
We mustn’t let the stupidity of the “Climate Change” hoaxers divert us from an objective assessment of emerging technology. Consider the dawn of the airlines. Who, looking at the technology current at that time, could have foreseen the Boeing 707? Along with the commercial advantages of UAVs, autonomous vehicles and stealth capability are attractive enough to our military to generate some serious R&D. I believe advances in metal hydride storage and light-weight fuel cells will eventually make hydrogen-powered electric aircraft commercially viable, to the point where at overhaul time GA aircraft owners will find it advantageous to replace their engines with a drop-in hydrogen power train. Just as it’s been since the dawn of aviation, there will be many failures along the way, but electric motors will replace internal combustion engines in aircraft just as they did in locomotives; there are just too many advantages.
Yea, except for the FAA, please do not hold your breath even if all the technical problems were solved.
I look forward to reading your study that conclusively shows that rising CO2 is somehow good for the planet because of its role in photosynthesis. Absurd in the extreme.
The rest of the post about emissions due to mining and production of photovoltaics has some merit. There’s no free lunch of course, but keep in mind that PV panels are manufactured once, and last for 20 years.
Of course electric aircraft will be produced, but, to decrease emissions? Think about it!
It is a fact that CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing, which created the question whether something should be done about it. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created to explore this question.
“Global warming” refers to the global average temperature increase that has been observed over the last hundred years or more. Many politicians and the public are convinced that mankind is responsible for global warming. Research done by multiple climate scientists have produced findings that put the question in its proper perspective. An example is recent research done by Roy W. Spencer, a Ph.D. in meteorology and a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In his words, his group’s recent government- funded research suggests global warming is mostly natural, and that the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol pollution. Spencer reported that the global-average lower tropospheric temperature trend is +0. 114 C per decade. This trend extrapolated to year 2100 produces a result of an increase of less than 1 degree C by the end of the century, hardly a crisis.
How climate change has been conflated into a crisis is that the politicians, i.e., the Intergovernmental Panel, are at the helm of the ship rather than the scientists. Two books analyzing climate change, “Hot Talk, Cold Science” by S. Fred Singer and “False Alarm” by Bjorn Lomborg, provide some enlightening insight on climate change.
You might want to copy & paste this for emails.
Thank you, Black B., for some common sense. There is a serious lack of rigor in a lot of “Science” these days, and “peer review” has become a mechanism where the orthodox consensus shuts out innovation and progress. Everyone should check out the “Replication Crisis”.
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” ~ Richard P. Feynman
Exactly. Somewhere along the way the weather people, and many other academics, decided it was they that should be making all the decisions. We get lies and PR from them instead of straight answers.
From a Google search for “Who funds Roy Spencer?”:
Spencer currently serves as a director at the George C. Marshall Institute, an Arlington, Va. -based nonprofit that receives substantial funding from oil and gas interests — including Exxon, which has given the group at least $840,000 since 1998, according to Greenpeace’s ExxonSecrets.org database.
See https://www.facingsouth.org/2011/09/climate-science-contrarian-roy-spencers-oil-industry-ties.html for more details.
Lots of other hits from the above search suggest that his work is highly suspect.
Why do these articles always get derailed by climate change deniers, whose counter arguments are always so easily dismissed? Roy Spencer is a well-known climate change denialist who’s funding is provided by the oil and gas industry. Myriad papers of his have been substantially critiqued, to the point where the editor of Remote Sensing resigned following publication of one of his papers, which selectively published part of a data set to support incorrect conclusions. Of course, he also loves to appear on certain media channels and publish textbooks (which do not require peer review) to support his contrarian views, no doubt to his own financial benefit. In summary- he has notable conflicts of interests, and any of his conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.
I realize most on here aren’t scientists, but there’s a broad cognitive dissonance when it comes to climate science on this board. No, it is not “common sense” at all to listen to a lone contrarian voice that makes you feel better. That’s called “confirmation bias.”
I welcome scientifically sound studies and analyses that improve our understanding of climate science- that’s how science works. But to pick this guy as though he somehow rises above the “weather people making decisions” leaves me realizing many of you need to spend a little more time away from whatever news feed you get.
Thank you!! We’ll put
All the R 44 pilots are going to be chomping at the bit to become an American Airlines captain.
“Seals the Deal”??? LOL. More press release slight of hand tricks, and journalists taking the bait. Please AvWeb friends who I love and respect, I’ll send you folks any gift basket you want if you promise not to keep posting these as real news (just name it – wine, cookies, fruit, swiss choc, halal/kosher cheese; just send me the address I’ll FedEx it over, I swear!)
Just because a press release claims a Major Milestone doesn’t make it real. Read the actual July 15 text from vendor: AA “placed a conditional pre-order”. Meaningless!
The industry uses one and only term for a “real” aircraft order, so if the presser does not use the words “Firm Order” it is NOT an order, and is just another PR trick. “Firm Orders” are the one and only accepted way of accounting for customer purchase commitments and the only measure that anyone in the industry or investors takes seriously. These are NOT firm orders.
Even firm orders are far from “firm” since even ones with Boeing / Airbus/ GE / RR/ P&W/ etc. have tight, specific terms that give the buyer dozens of escape hatches if certification, noise, environmental, MX, training, dispatch metrics cannot be objectively met. Even a typical Boeing or Airbus project does not meet many of its promised metrics, which typically results in massive renegotiations for millions of $$ of credits or outright cancellations with refunds.
No dollar amount of this supposed deposit was offered. So I think it is fair to suggest that the “pre-delivery payment” amount was $1 per on what is a very clearly NOT firm order.
Recap: since the the FAA certification whiplash to it’s OIG audit three months ago, eVTOL are going to be (fingers crossed!) certified as Powered Lift. Which has been accomplished a grand total of ZERO times and so anyone trying has a murky certification road ahead of it. [Side Note – All of the powered lift pilots in the world can fit can in my back yard pool, so Dave and Martha King better get to work on a new course soon!!] The previous plan to certify as airplane 14 CFR Pt. 23 that was tossed out this Spring was always bordering on a fairy tale, but it at least had *some* plausible path to production certification for at least the airframe, but now they are a long long way from a conceivable cert path in N. America.
And unfortunately US 14 CFR doesn’t align at all with EASA’s proposed new eVTOL rules so FAA can’t reciprocally accept European certifications for the airframe, powerplants, avionics, power sources, maintenance, noise standards, training, operations, etc. , even if it ever comes from EASA, unless a corresponding miracle of new legislation comes from Congress to enable FAA to promulgate separate new eVTOL certification regs (yet another multi-year bureaucratic fiasco)
Don’t take my word – glance over the company’s timeline at vertical-aerospace DOT com/about-us and explain me exactly when / how this is going to actually become reality. No, really, where exactly in their calendar in the next two years is the word “Certification” ???
I actually hope somehow they get this going and eventually succeed, but I don’t frame my dreams for aviation’s future as news of an accomplishment to prop up an investment scheme. The chances of them meeting the timeline and performance metrics of this “order” seems small for anyone with a basic understanding of the industry, gov’t regulation, or of gravity. So objectively, the odds of this “sealed deal” becoming reality is about as good as the 103 orders for the Concorde. Which last I checked we’re still waiting on…
We are hearing about pilot shortages and essential service routes being dropped. So how does AA justify one pilot flying four passengers? Wouldn’t it be better to use two pilots to keep a 737 or RJ flying and carry 50-180 passengers on existing routes rather than catering to a few rich persons?
I’m not against having eVTOLs and putting them into service (when the FAA approves the aircraft, routes, regs, etc.). The technology and possibilities for eVTOLs is exciting, but it seems better to let some air Uber startup companies to do this rather than a major airline.
Ditto on the “zero emissions” comments. I’m really getting tired of politicians and “green” companies making false claims and trying to shove the green lies %*@ down our throats.
“Together, we are making zero-emissions flight a reality for passengers traveling all over the world.”
“Reality?” Where are these vehicles and their passengers?
Purposeful lies. Danger, Will Robinson.
AVWEB readers keep wondering why they keep publishing this stuff. The reason is simple. The folks at AVWEB enjoy reading the responses much more than writing the articles. Throw this fantasy nonsense out there, then set back and be amused by the comments. Were are all suckers that keep taking the bait!!!
Can someone please explain to me why eVTOLS are preferable or superior to a turbine powered helicopter?
Want to know why AA is pursuing this crazy deal? Follow the money. AA is a merger between AA and USAir. Who financed the merger? Blackrock, Vanguard Group Inc. and PRIMECAP Management Co. These three institutions are pushing ESG. They are telling the the CEOs of their investment companies to pursue the green agenda or risk being fired. These institutions are not interested serving customers, improving service, fixing their broken airline. They are only interested in pursuing the green agenda.
The only green agenda American has is to make money. If you know anything about Blackrock you’d know how foolish your statements are.
TOUGH CROWD! And that’s why I like AvWeb!