This electric aircraft maker is seizing on record heat in UK to help make its case
By Paul Brinkmann|July 19, 2022
Advanced air mobility companies can be part of a solution, Vertical Aerospace executive says
FARNBOROUGH AIRSHOW, Farnborough, U.K. — Thousands of attendees at one of the world’s largest air shows sweltered in record-breaking heat for the U.K., as temperatures climbed to about 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time ever on the island, prompting one executive to call for acceleration of efforts to bring electric aircraft to market.
“I think it’s the hottest day in history here, and things aren’t going to get better if we don’t do something about it,” Eduardo Dominguez Puerta, chief commercial officer of Bristol, U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace said during a presentation here.
Puerta spoke in an air-conditioned tent, but he and audience members were visibly sweating.
“It’s not just about emissions, but the entire system, and making aviation truly sustainable,” Puerta said. “We need to be pragmatic and start showing that this works, as soon as it’s possible safely.”
Puerta said a few, small electric aircraft wouldn’t make an impact on climate change, but that these initial air taxis services could show the public that the technology works and, therefore, prompt a wider embrace of electric flight.
Vertical brought a full-scale black model of four-passenger VX4 electric vertical and takeoff aircraft to Farnborough, drawing a crowd of visitors to its booth in an exhibit hall. The company intends to begin flight testing later this year to prepare for the operational craft, which would also seat a pilot and four passengers.
Vertical announced Monday that the U.K. government awarded it and a consortium of companies £9.5 million ($11.4 million) to “build [the] world’s first advanced electric flight ecosystem.” Other companies in the group are Atkins, Skyports and Virgin Atlantic.
“We need players to develop a charging system, to train pilots and work closely together to develop a full ecosystem,” Puerta said.
Vertical has letters of intent from multiple customers who intend to buy hundreds of VX4s. American Airlines announced Monday it has agreed to pre-delivery payments on 50 of the 250 aircraft it conditionally ordered in 2021.
Puerta said the American commitment “shows that there’s real traction and there’s a real market.”
All commercial aviation accounts for about 3.5% of the world’s human-caused climate warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“Right now, I think peace is the No. 1 objective for the world, unfortunately, but sustainability is also important. And you can’t work on sustainability effectively if you don’t have peace,” Puerta said.
Vertical intends to achieve type certification or the VX4 from the European Aviation Safety Authority by 2024.
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