Pioneers in Advanced Air Mobility Seek to Revolutionize Vertical Flying
During this week’s Heli-Expo trade show, advanced air mobility (AAM) revolutionaries shared their grand dreams for using eVTOL vehicles to completely alter how people and things are transported. The first commercial flights could launch in 2025, assuming the pioneers can accomplish their ambitious goals for obtaining type certification. They are already presenting an increasingly detailed picture of the future of air travel.
The Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation, which on Wednesday announced a cooperation with Airbus to research strategies for deploying the aircraft manufacturer’s in-development CityAirbus NextGen models for emergency medical flights, is one component of the picture.
“The Foundation has always been at the forefront of medical innovation, most recently with dedicated research to integrate a CT scanner into a five-bladed H145 helicopter,” said Balkiz Sarihan, head of urban air mobility at Airbus. “We’re looking forward to working with it as a strategic partner to further develop the exact missions where our eVTOL’s capabilities would contribute to protecting citizens and making sure they can access effective healthcare in Norway.”
Leif Olestad, a representative of the non-profit organization, told reporters during a press conference on the show floor that he and his colleagues are looking for ways to “deliver improvements to the rescue chain” beyond what helicopters currently accomplish by speeding up response times and enhancing patient outcomes.
Olestad said innovative applications of cutting-edge technology are the ideal response, explaining how Norway’s distinctive and challenging geography necessitates adaptable types of air mobility to service a mixture of urban and rural areas divided by mountains and fjords. “We don’t know yet what this could look like, but building the use cases for eVTOLs is a good first step,” he said. “We need optimism, realism, and knowledge.”
In the HAI’s AAM Leaders panel discussion, which featured executives from eVTOL creators Archer Aviation, Beta Technologies, and Jaunt Air Mobility, all of those qualities were on display. Also, it heard from Blade Air Mobility and Bristow, two prospective operators, as well as the FAA about how the organization’s new Innovate 28 initiative seeks to enable initial trial operations in a number of U.S. early adopter areas by 2028. In order to deliver on-demand flights in vehicles carrying up to four or five passengers, Blade President and General Counsel Melissa Tromkiel detailed how the ridesharing booking platform will deploy eVTOLs across its network of Part 135 operators.
At Bristow, chief transformation officer David Stepanek is broadening the application of the well-established business-to-business model of the helicopter operator. He emphasized that the company’s current fleet of rotorcraft will continue to operate, and that eVTOLs will instead offer “a parallel way to open things up for passengers.” In order to establish the AAM ecosystem, he urged his fellow AAM trailblazers to “collaborate on safety and operations and then compete on the commercial side.”
Bristow committed to purchasing up to 55 of Beta’s Alia 250 eVTOLs last year, and the manufacturer recently tested Blade at Westchester County Airport in the New York metropolitan area. “Our biggest focus is on how we bring this [AAM] to market safely, and we’re sharing data with the regulator to drive the path to safe and reliable operations,” explained chief revenue officer Patrick Buckles. At Beta’s own expense, it has already established testbed vertiports at 10 U.S. locations.