For electric aircraft developer Eve, busy Chicago offers a proving ground
By Paul Brinkmann|August 25, 2022
Flights starting shortly on conventional helicopters will demonstrate everything except the electric airframe
Electric air taxi developer Eve Air Mobility, a spinoff of Embraer, plans to fly paying passengers around Chicago aboard conventional Bell 206 Long Ranger helicopters to assess its processes and build excitement ahead of plans to begin services with its electric aircraft in Chicago and elsewhere in 2026, the company announced Tuesday.
“We want to identify and understand operations in the Chicago airspace, including the workload of the pilots, how they need to be communicating and how we can ease that in the future,” Luiz Renato Mauad, Eve’s vice president of services and fleet operation, told me in an interview.
The “Chicago Experience” flights are scheduled for Sept. 14 to Sept. 30. Passengers can book flights for $150 via the smartphone app of Eve’s partner in Chicago, Blade Urban Air Mobility, a New York City-based company that aims to reduce “travel friction” in congested areas by giving customers the opportunity to take to the air. Blade has also signed a letter of intent to obtain 60 Eve aircraft.
Passengers can choose to fly between Vertiport Chicago, a helicopter facility just south of Chicago’s downtown medical district, and the suburbs of Schaumburg or Tinley Park. There will be four flights per day between these suburban heliports and the downtown vertiport. Plans call for pilots to test the routes on Sept. 12 and 13 prior to carrying passengers.
According to Blade’s website, dozens of tickets for the flights have been sold as of Thursday.
The Chicago flights will follow a similar project in 2021 in Brazil, Mauad said.
“In Rio de Janeiro, we connected the international airport to a neighborhood, and this time we decided to create three points inside the city and connect north to downtown and west to downtown where we can see those flights every day,” he said.
Why start with conventional combustion rotorcraft? “Helicopters are the aircraft that we can fly today, and we know there will be some noise, but we hope these tests will build anticipation for quieter, electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.”
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