A Virgin Atlantic fleet of flying cars that could reduce the travel time of short-haul journeys by more than two thirds is set to roll out in the UK by 2024, it has been revealed.
Vertical Aerospace, a Bristol-based firm, is working towards building the fleet of electrically powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, as part of a £2.8 billion ($4 billion) project.
Virgin Atlantic will purchase up to 150 of the aircraft, called VA-X4, to deliver a Virgin Atlantic branded short haul network around some of the UK’s busiest cities.
The ‘near-silent’ aircraft – 100 times quieter than a helicopter – will have zero carbon emissions and a range of more than 100 miles.
Each craft will carry one pilot and four passengers, who will be seated in a luxury interior, complete with padded seats, headrests, seatbelts and ample legroom.
According to Vertical Aerospace, trips in the craft will likely end up costing travellers around £5 to £10 per mile travelled – between that of a helicopter and a private car – which they could book using an app.
Commercial operations are planned for 2024 once certified under European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Vertical Aerospace, which is led by a Northern Irish multi-millionaire and Formula 1 enthusiast, is also expected to work with American Airlines on flying passengers in the US.
Trips in the craft will likely end up costing travellers around £5 to £10 per mile travelled – between that of a helicopter and a private car. Concept image shows a Virgin-branded aircraft, built by Vertical Aerospace, flying over London
Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and Irish aircraft leasing company Avolon have invested a total of £2.8 billion as part of the project.
Microsoft’s M12, Honeywell and Rolls-Royce, as well as American Airlines and Avolon, are all investing in the PIPE (private investment in public equity).
The project should result in a total fleet of 1,000 aircraft built by Vertical Aerospace.
‘With innovation and sustainability leadership firmly in our DNA, we are excited to be partnering with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions air travel in the UK,’ said Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic.
The aircraft would potentially take off and land at airfields in the outskirts of a city, or even on landing pads at the top of tall buildings
THE VA-1X: THE STATS
Wingspan: 49 feet (15 metres)
Length: 43 feet (13 metres)
Maximum payload: 992 lbs (450 kg)
Capacity: 1 pilot and 4 passengers
Power source: Lithium-ion batteries
Noise: 100x less than a helicopter
Commercial flights begin: 2024
‘We pride ourselves on building enduring strategic partnerships and are thrilled to be working alongside Vertical in its mission to bring eVTOL travel to the UK.’
Vertical Aerospace, established in 2016, has been working on prototypes for years, but a new image from the firm shows what the Virgin-branded vehicles will look like.
The VA-X4 has four tilting advanced rotors at the front and stowable rotors at the rear, capable of speeds over 200 miles per hour.
VA-X4, which will have certification to the same safety standards as commercial airliners, is set to ‘revolutionise urban mobility and electrify air travel’, Virgin said.
Virgin Atlantic and Vertical Aerospace will be working together to explore a joint venture to enable passenger operations in the UK.
Vertical Aerospace and Virgin Atlantic will seek to establish short haul, electric aircraft connectivity between UK cities and airport hubs starting with London Heathrow, Manchester and London Gatwick.
For example, reducing the 56-mile journey from Cambridge to London Heathrow to just 22 minutes, in comparison to a one hour 30 minute drive by road.