Virgin to test short-haul flying taxis in the UK

Virgin Atlantic has partnered with Vertical Aerospace to explore the possibility of launching a flying taxi service in the UK.

The partnership includes an option for the company to buy up to 150 eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft, as part of the exploration into a Virgin Atlantic branded short haul flying taxi network.

The company is aiming to establish short haul, electric aircraft connectivity between UK cities and airport hubs starting with London Heathrow, Manchester and London Gatwick.

The fully-electric VA-X4 is a zero emissions, near silent aircraft with a range of over 100 miles and it will carry four passengers in addition to a pilot.

The VA-X4 has four tilting advanced rotors at the front and stowable rotors at the rear, capable of speeds over 200mph, with certification to the same safety standards as commercial airliners.

One of Virgin Atlantic’s aims through the proposed service, is the reduction of the 56-mile journey from Cambridge to London Heathrow in just 22 minutes, in comparison to a one hour 30-minute journey by road.

With 37 towns and cities with populations over 100,000 within 100 miles of London Heathrow Airport, the VA-X4 could short haul transfers for 7.7 million customers outside of London, for flights to and from the UK’s main hub airport.

A full-scale prototype of the VA-X4 is currently in production and the first test flight is planned for later this year.

Commercial operations of the VA-X4 are planned for 2024 following European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) certification.

“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, chief executive, Virgin Atlantic. “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.

Weiss added: “Our partnership includes an option for Virgin Atlantic to acquire up to 150 eVTOL VA-X4 aircraft and exploration of a Joint Venture to bring short haul, electric vehicle connectivity to cities and our UK airport hubs, starting with London Heathrow as well as Manchester and London Gatwick. Combining the design, engineering and manufacturing expertise of Vertical with the award-winning customer experience and operational excellence of Virgin Atlantic.”

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