Airbus SE said it will make a flying-taxi model available for sale only when the technology is mature, despite rival designs racking up hundreds of conditional orders at a similar stage of development.
The CityAirbus NextGen, unveiled last September following a revamp to an earlier blueprint, will fly by the end of next year once remaining technical challenges are resolved, Airbus Helicopters Chief Executive Officer Bruno Even said in a briefing Wednesday.
A spate of airline deals for other electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, such as the VX4 from Vertical Aerospace Ltd., justifies Airbus’s commitment to the new sector, according to Even. The European planemaker can still prize orders away from startups that have logged only tentative deals for flying taxis that aren’t yet certified, he said.
“I don’t think these are firm commitments and this is seen very positively by us,” Even said. “We are looking at this more at platform and ecosystem level. There will come the time when we are ready.”
EVTOLs, as they are known, are seen as a threat to conventional helicopters because they promise cheaper, zero-emission flights. The new aircraft are set to complement helicopters rather than displace them, Even said, opening up new markets such as trips from city centers to airports, a service currently dominated by road transport.
The revised four-seat CityAirbus craft features fixed wings, a V-shaped tail and eight electrically powered propellers, with a range of 50 miles and a speed of 75 mph.
The CEO sees a further recovery in helicopter demand this year, though not yet to the pre-Covid 19 levels of 2019. Airbus’s rotorcraft orders increased 45% to 419 in 2021, with deliveries up 13% to 338.