Could advanced air mobility reshape aspects of business aviation? Some experts think so
By Paul Brinkmann|June 27, 2022
Impacted would be local, regional travel by executives
The business aviation industry is preparing for a possible sea change in which electric air taxis begin replacing or augmenting corporate helicopters for local flights or turboprops for regional flights, experts said.
The growing number of companies focused on electric vertical takeoff and landing or electric short takeoff and landing craft is a welcome development at the nonprofit National Business Aviation Association in Washington, D.C., whose members include manufacturers of corporate aircraft and the coming line of air taxis now in development in the emerging advanced air mobility marketplace.
“We’re excited about the new technologies that are coming online and how they appear to be very, very much in line with our goals of ever-increasing efficiency, safety, security and sustainability, all of those things,” said Ed Bolen, NBAA’s president and CEO, in a phone interview.
The association established a roundtable in 2021 to include some of the leading companies in the AAM field, among them Archer Aviation, Beta Technologies, Eve Air Mobility, Hillwood Aviation, Joby Aviation, Lilium, Supernal and Wisk Aero.
NBAA claimed a legislative win when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Advanced Aviation Infrastructure Modernization Act on June 13. The group had advocated for the bill, which would provide $25 million to local governments to prepare for the arrival of air taxi services.
Established companies in the business aviation industry have bought up large interests in emerging AAM firms. Boeing invested at least $450 million in Wisk, Textron (owner of Cessna and Beechcraft brands) bought Europe-based Pipistrel and Embraer founded its own eVTOL company, Brazil-based Eve Air Mobility.
“Across the board, you see a lot of enthusiasm for technology, new talent and sustainability like electric aircraft or sustainable aviation fuel,” Bolen said. “These are all things that seem to capture the attention and fire the imaginations of young people, so that’s all to the good.”
By way of example, Germany-based Lilium has been frank about targeting sales of its seven-seat Lilium Jets to individual corporate owners. The advantages, beyond electric zero-emission flight, also include much quieter flight than a traditional helicopter, in an era when urban helicopter flights have drawn opposition such as from the “Stop the Chop” organization in the New York and New Jersey area.
Lilium announced in February it would partner with Ohio-based NetJets to provide fractional ownership shares in Lilium Jets for fleet services and also set up “a separate private sales campaign for individuals to purchase Lilium aircraft.”
“We have received significant interest from private individuals in the Lilium Jet,” Lilium said in its announcement.
Lilium added in the press release, “We believe that the private and business professional segments will be highly attractive markets in the future and, likewise, early adopters of the eVTOL revolution.”
In Lilium’s case, the company plans for a range of about 250 kilometers for its eVTOLs, and has announced plans for service networks in German and Florida, where several large cities are within that distance from its planned base in Orlando.