Transcend Air Introduces Vy 400 VTOL Commuter

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Image: Transcend Air Corporation

Image: Transcend Air Corporation

Transcend Air Corporation has announced that it has begun development on a six-seat vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) concept designed to carry business travelers between major cities. The Transcend Air Vy 400 will be a piloted, turbine-powered model intended for four to five passengers. The company has also said it has plans to launch a commuter airline service in early 2024.

“This is a necessary and transformative addition to city-to-city transportation options,” said Transcend CEO Greg Bruell. “It solves multiple problems at once: We’ll take cars off congested roads, reduce pollution around airports and lower the cost of air transportation while drastically reducing travel times.” According to Transcend Air, it has built and flown 15 prototype VTOL aircraft since 2009.

The company says the tilt-wing Vy 400 will have a range of up to 450 miles and be able to cruise at 405 MPH. It will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F engines and be equipped with a BRS whole-aircraft parachute. The expected useful load for the aircraft is 2,200 pounds. The aircraft weighs 4,800 pounds empty and can carry 960 pounds of fuel. According to the company website, a Vy trip from New York to Boston would take 36 minutes and cost $283 per seat. Transcend Air plans to open the order book for the aircraft in late 2020 at a price of $3.5 million.

Comments (18)

"We'll take cars off congested roads, reduce pollution around airports and lower the cost of air transportation"

Each one won't take even ONE taxi off the road but will INCREASE total co2 pollution and INCREASE the cost over other existing certified rotary wing designs.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 28, 2018 8:02 PM    Report this comment

Actually Mark, our analysis supports Greg's statement, or he wouldn't have made it. This isn't an eVTOL design, in case you missed that in Kate's excellent summary. It'll have lower per mile DOC than the Conklin & de Decker numbers for the Bell 407, the R-66 and even the R-44 - because it's three times as fast, I.e. it spends 1/3 the time emitting for the same distance traveled. Wingborne flight is much more fuel efficient, which means less CO2.

When a person can walk from a downtown office to a vertipad, that's a long stop and go taxi-ride through gridlock to LGA, BOS, SFO, ORD, etc. saved.

I'm happy to discuss where we will have advantages vs other city-to-city transportation modes, especially where people have taken the time to thoughtfully consider the trade offs.

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 28, 2018 9:25 PM    Report this comment

Where is the analysis that it will take any taxi's or even one shuttle bus off congested roads?
Where is the analysis that it will be cheaper than existing turbine helicopter service?
Where is the analysis that just moving pollution away from an airport to somewhere else is "good"?
Faster? Well, yea, but current turbine helicopters are already "faster" than ground transportation.

I would like to see the analysis that shows that people who are currently paying the high premium for turbine helicopter services are clamoring for more. That's the sliver of a minuscule market that I could see being interested.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 29, 2018 8:34 AM    Report this comment

The analysis is on my computer right now, but we'll be sharing it in a series of posts. Watch our LinkedIn and/or website for them.

But just to make sure you grasp the fundamental point: the tiltwing is a more efficient design, in two key ways. (1) by flying 3 times faster than helicopters, it takes one third the time to get you to your destination, and so is burning fuel for 1/3 the time. That reduces costs as well as reduces CO2 emissions vs helicopter. (2) By enabling airline passengers to use a distributed network of vertipads, which are located close to where they work, we reduce the need to start and end airline trips with long car trips to/from centralized airports in stop-and-go traffic. Those car trips emit significant amounts of CO2 today.

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 29, 2018 8:45 AM    Report this comment

Sure a tilt wing turbine helicopter is more efficient than a turbine helicopter, but any turbine aircraft puts out A LOT MORE CO2 than a modern automobile over the same distance. Q.E.D.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 29, 2018 9:25 AM    Report this comment

5 people driving their own cars from NYC to Boston at an average of 25 mpg (the current U.S. light car and truck fleet average) jointly are averaging 5 mpg (25/5). Those same people riding in a Vy will do over 3 times better.

By attracting people to fly in the Vy instead of driving their own cars, we do, in fact, emit less CO2 in total. Neat, huh? :-)

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 29, 2018 9:51 AM    Report this comment

You calculated all cars with zero passengers and all Vy flights with a 100% passenger load?

Well son, we have a word for folks using that kinda math down here in the South, but I can't say it on a public forum. Best for me to just say "good day, sir.".

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 29, 2018 10:45 AM    Report this comment

Mark, I calculated for owner-driven car trips, so one passenger who is also the driver. That's where the "5" in the denominator comes from. (If I'd assumed zero passengers, there would have been a divide by zero problem!)

And, good day to you, as well!

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 29, 2018 11:00 AM    Report this comment

Either choose vehicle mpg or seat mpg.
That's how you do a logical and scientific comparison.
Cars win vehicle mpg comparisons.
Cars win seat mpg comparisons.

Only a politician or a crook would try and convince people (by using 100% occupancy, both ways, in their calculations) to try and convince them that their system is profitable and economical. Amtrak and Concord come to mind.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 29, 2018 2:00 PM    Report this comment

Mark Fraser,

What do you mean by "QED?" What exactly have you proven? There was no claim above that it would be more fuel efficient than a car, and that's hardly a requirement for an aircraft to be a success.

Peter Schmidt,

Does it have one PT6 or two? What will the noise footprint be like in the VTOL mode compared to a squirrel?

Posted by: Gareth Allen | June 29, 2018 2:44 PM    Report this comment

Cheers Gareth, it's a single PT6A, and it'll be a bit louder than a squirrel. :-) Our operation model for the airline is to use vertipads with big setbacks from where people live or work, so we never need to be loud down low over people. The heliports around Manhattan are good examples. We won't be landing on building rooftops, unless it's something as large as a parking garage with a vertiport built on top.

Mark, if it helps you, know that our pricing and profitability projections in fact assume an 85% load factor, which is the current average for the airlines nationwide.

If I redo my calculation using that, then taking 5 owners/drivers/passengers out of their personal cars and putting 85% of them in a Vy between NYC and Boston (though I'm not sure how the remaining 5*15% = 3/4 of a person gets there) still achieves an average mpg that is 2.3 times better than if all 5 had driven themselves.

It doesn't quite make sense to do that, since we left 3/4 of a person in New York City, but it still cuts their CO2 emissions by more than half.

When I mentioned thoughtfully considering the tradeoffs above, it's this kind of analysis I meant. Taking people out of their cars and filling our aircraft is mathematically favorable regarding CO2 emissions. Taking them out of a mode of mass transit would not be - but you can't force people to get out of their cars, you have to coax them by giving them a better alternative, which the Vy will be, for many.

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 29, 2018 3:19 PM    Report this comment

Q.E.D. as in cars use 80 pounds of fuel to go as far as 960 pounds of fuel in this turbine powered aircraft. That's provable by just reading the specifications. Any turbine aircraft puts out A LOT MORE CO2 than a modern automobile over the same distance. Q.E.D

Projections also need to also take into account TSA and/or normal security personnel at "vertipads" as well as extra noise/zoning, IFR minimums, fuel, fire suppression, local air conditioning/heating, etc. 24/7 Security means adding cars on the roads (not to mention support staff and offices and ticketing systems and billing systems and...) Did you calculate those EXTRA CO2 emissions into your "total" system emissions when making a thoughtful comparison to someone just driving home on their own?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 29, 2018 4:56 PM    Report this comment

Hi Mark, there is not a TSA inspection requirement for aircraft the size of the Vy. And for the rest of the points, yes, we've been working on this for over 5 years already, and the objections that have occurred to you with just a few minutes of aggressive nay-saying are indeed all ones we've considered and have reasonable plans for.

Lets check your math: 960 pounds of fuel takes 5 passengers in this aircraft approximately 450 miles (with reserves). That's .43 lbs of fuel per passenger mile. If I accept that 80 lbs of fuel enables 1 car to take one passenger the same distance, that would equate to (5 driver/passengers * 80 lbs) / 450 = .89 lbs per passenger mile. That is indeed 2.1 times MORE FULE than our aircraft, so your numbers seem to be more or less correct.

As I showed above, taking 5 individuals out of their cars, and putting them in our aircraft, even with your own numbers, cuts CO2 emissions by over half.

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 29, 2018 8:39 PM    Report this comment

* MORE FUEL, oops...

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 29, 2018 8:55 PM    Report this comment

True, you won't need TSA security at the heipads IF you drop clients at the airport parking area. You're right that you probably would not get access to land directly at the terminal. Regardless, you will need passenger service TO the airport for departures as well (or you'll be flying a whole return segment empty and thus doubling what your calculated co2 savings is per passenger).

You keep assuming 1 passenger per car to make your numbers anywhere close. Excuse me but that excludes all the potential clients who currently fly with wives, business partners, children, friends, and significant others. To make the numbers come nearly the same you;ll need to always need to fly with 5 svelte passengers on board with no luggage and who are all traveling alone to the same destination at the same time. Well, yea, then the numbers "calculate" exactly as you you have demonstrated.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 30, 2018 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Ahh, sorry, there are a few things it seems the article didn't make clear: one is, we aren't going to airports, at all. That's where most of the time savings the service will offer comes from, through freeing people from the slog to and from BOS, or LGA, or ORD, or etc. And freeing them from the time spent on parking, and on TSA lines, and on boarding lines, and on deplaning, and on waiting for an Uber at the far end, and on being stuck in stop-and-go traffic at both ends.

Another is, our target market segment is weekday business travelers going from city to city. Where people choose to drive those trips, the majority are single-occupant vehicles. I know from competing for that business using Cirruses to/from reliever airports around Boston and NYC for several years. We specifically targeted travelers with multiple people going together, because it let them split the cost of the charter. Turns out, it's a small percentage of the trips, like less than 5%. So, it's not misleading for me to use the 5 cars to 1 aircraft comparison, for the market segment we're going after.

As for svelte, on the NYC-Boston route, we plan for five 200lb pax with 50lbs of luggage each, plus a 200lb pilot. From running the Cirruses on this route, I know that's a realistic-to-conservative average pax profile.

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 30, 2018 1:44 PM    Report this comment

I'll use YOUR calculations to:
1) Convince my wife to let me swap my 2-seat piston plane for a Pilatus PC-12 and then
2) Apply for tax and carbon credits for being so Eco-friendly.


Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 30, 2018 9:24 PM    Report this comment

Well, you know, if you've been ferrying 8-9 people back and forth in your Cub, and you put them all in one trip in a Pilatus, math does say that would be more eco-friendly, so good on ya!

Posted by: Peter Schmidt | June 30, 2018 10:33 PM    Report this comment

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