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American Airlines reserves 50 flying taxis

Making down payment to Vertical Aerospace for VX4 electric VTOL fleet

American Airlines has committed to making pre-delivery payments for 50 Vertical Aerospace VX4 electric VTOL aircraft.

The commitment [PDF] comes just over a year after the aviation giant made a pre-order for 250 of the flying taxis, with an option for a further 100.

Shares in Vertical Aerospace jumped as the news was announced, rising from $2.90 to $5, but still a long way from the $10-plus highs of 2021.

Vertical Aerospace claims its VX4 will be 100x quieter than a helicopter and have a top speed of 202mph. Its range will be at least 100 miles and it can carry five people (including the pilot). Being electric, the aircraft will also have zero operating emissions, the company said.

Electric VTOL aircraft have long been a dream of designers around the world. There was, for example, the "Puffin" of 2010, but the VX4 has eschewed the flying car concept in favor of what amounts to a flying taxi. The aircraft is, however, subject to certification. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are to concurrently certify the machine with a view to operations commencing in the UK and Europe in 2025. A nod from the US Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) will also be needed before the VX4 can commence US operations.

American Airlines currently operates just over 900 aircraft and has orders for more than 500 on the books, of which 350 could potentially be VX4 vehicles.

Derek Kerr, chief financial officer at American Airlines, said of the deal: "We have made great strides in simplifying our fleet with newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft, and are proud to take part in another step toward the development of advanced air mobility."

In a recent letter to shareholders [PDF], Vertical Aerospace boasted that the prototype VX4 was nearly complete and would be kicking off its flight test program in the summer of 2022. It also talked up its pre-order book, which stands at up to 1,350 aircraft with a value of $5.4 billion, according to the company.

However, it is the move by American Airlines to reserve its first 50 aircraft with a pre-delivery payment commitment that makes a fleet of eVTOL aircraft seem closer to reality than science fiction. ®

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