Airbus has found its first partner for the CityAirbus NextGen Urban Air Mobility (UAM) program. The OEM has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Italian airline ITA Airways to develop the UAM market in Italy. ITA Airways partners with Airbus on CityAirbus NextGen.

The MoU only includes a joint approach to the emerging market in Italy, with the aim of attracting more interested stakeholders and partners for the safe operations of eVTOL vehicles. Airbus and ITA also want to develop pilot cases to secure public acceptance for ‘flying taxis’. The agreement doesn’t include any commitments from ITA to purchase the CityAirbus NextGen, which still needs confirmation of its first firm order.

“With this agreement, our partnership expands to the segment of urban air mobility for a wider, customer-centric, innovative, and sustainable offer for our customers”, ITA Chairman, Alfredo Altavilla, says in a media statement. He doesn’t elaborate on where ITA sees opportunities to add eVTOL operations to its network, but this will most likely be in urban areas in the North of Italy (Milan, Turin) and around the capital Rome. ITA is to operate an all-Airbus fleet of new aircraft, having placed a direct order for 28 with Airbus plus 39 from various lessors.

In contrast to other regions in the world like the US, Brazil, Australia, and countries in Asia, the European UAM market has taken off comparatively slowly. Eve Air Mobility and Vertical Aerospace have racked up significant commitments for around 2.000 eVTOLs each, but most of them outside Europe. Vertical signed agreements with Virgin Atlantic and (via Avolon) with Turkish company Gozen Holding but confirmation is conditional on various technological, financial, and regulatory steps that need to be taken.

Airbus has been exploring its opportunities in the UAM market since 2014, but only last September unveiled the latest iteration of the CityAirbus NextGen. It hasn’t flown a prototype of the NextGen yet but plans to do the first flight in 2023. Certification is scheduled for 2025. Airbus announced in March that it had signed a contract with Spirit AeroSystems to develop and manufacture the wings of the CityAirbus. 

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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