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American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic order electric taxis from Vertical Aerospace

The launch revealed on Thursday that it has pre-orders for up to 1,000 of its zero-emission vertical take-off aircraft, the VA-X4, worth as much as $ 4 billion, when it announced plans to be announced in New York via a merger with blank check company Broadstone Acquisition Corp.

The VA-X4 will travel at speeds over 200 miles per hour and be “almost silent” in flight, according to the company. A prototype of the aircraft, which has a range of over 100 miles, is currently in production and the first test flight is scheduled for later in the year.

American Airlines (EEL) has agreed to pre-book up to 250 aircraft with the option of an additional 100. Dublin-based aircraft leasing company Avolon has pre-bookings and options for 500 aircraft, while Virgin Atlantic has a pre-booking option of up to 150. Pre-bookings are subject to certain conditions and milestones, including certification from aviation safety regulators .

“This is the most exciting time in aviation in nearly a century,” Vertical Aerospace CEO and co-founder Stephen Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Electrification will transform flight in the 21st century in the same way that the jet engine did 70 years ago,” he added.

Fitzpatrick founded the Ovo Group, which owns the UK’s second largest energy retailer. His mission at Vertical Aerospace is to make air travel “personal, on demand and carbon-free”, and the startup counts former executives from Rolls Royce (RYCEF), Jaguar Land Rover and the UK Department of Defense among its engineering team.
Microsoft (MSFT) Venture capital subsidiary and Rocket Internet have also invested in the business.
Vertical Aerospace hopes to partner with Rolls-Royce and Honeywell (SHE)will, among other things, enable it to quickly secure the same level of certification as large commercial passenger aircraft from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and enable large-scale production. It expects commercial operations to start in 2024.

Airlines and planners are facing increasing pressure to tackle carbon emissions. The pandemic has thrown aviation into its worst decline ever and is expected to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy forms as governments take the opportunity to promote a green recovery.

“Emerging technologies are critical in reducing carbon emissions, and we are excited to partner with Vertical to develop the next generation of electric aircraft,” said Derek Kerr, CFO of American Airlines.

The world’s largest airline plans to work with Vertical on passenger operations and infrastructure development in the United States.

A rendering of a Virgin Atlantic-branded VA-X4 aircraft in London, supplied by Vertical Aerospace.

In the United Kingdom, Virgin Atlantic is exploring a regional network to connect UK cities with airports such as London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.

“With 37 cities with populations over 100,000 within 100 miles of London Heathrow Airport, the VA-X4 offers enormous potential to support zero-emission short-haul transmissions to 7.7 million customers outside London,” Virgin Atlantic said in a statement.

Vertical will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange following the merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp, a specialty company (SPAC). The deal will value Vertical to $ 2.2 billion and is expected to close in the second half of this year.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Virgin Atlantic plans to conduct a test flight later this year. The test is performed by Vertical Aerospace.

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