The UK-based Bristow, specializing in global vertical flight solutions offering helicopter for offshore oil and gas transportation and search and rescue (SAR) services, has recently joined forces with a younger company, Vertical Aerospace, to begin operating a piloted, fully electric VTOL aircraft. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the two firms will cooperate on the certification, operational planning, and potential purchase of up to 50 eVTOL aircraft.
Vertical Aerospace has already collected over 1000 orders for the production of VA-X4, a piloted electric, zero-carbon operating emissions, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft capable of carrying four passengers and a pilot. The air taxi is expected to have speeds of up to 200 mph (174 knots), a range of more than 100 miles (160 km), near-silent when in flight with zero emissions, and low cost per passenger mile.
The VA-X4 uses advanced avionics, based on the same flight control technologies as the F-35, one of the world’s only supersonic VTOL aircraft. This makes it easy to fly with high levels of automation and reduced pilot workload. Besides, Vertical says the air taxi features the world’s lightest and safest electric powertrain, co-developed with Rolls-Royce. In addition, its proprietary battery system is also designed to reduce the overall weight without minimizing efficiency.
Bristow has pre-ordered 25 VA-X4 aircraft, along with the option for an additional 25, and is now working with the manufacturer on the following areas: regulatory and airspace; demand, fleet size, spare parts, and infrastructure; potential customers; and public acceptance and environmental requirements.
American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and aircraft lessor Avolon Holdings have also placed pre-orders for the aircraft. Meanwhile, the first test flight of the VA-X4 air taxi will take place towards the end of this year, and if everything goes well, the air taxi will be allowed for commercial operation no earlier than 2024.