Vertical Aerospace has agreed on a joint development program with Italy’s Leonardo to design, test, and manufacture the composite fuselage of the XV4 eVTOL. The agreement includes the production of potentially 2.000 fuselage sections per year, both companies announced on February 8. Leonardo to design and build Vertical VX4 fuselage.

Leonardo is a producer of aircraft and helicopters itself and a tier-1 supplier to Airbus and Boeing, notably for the 777 and 787 programs. The emerging eVTOL market is new to it, but it is part of its 2030 strategic plan.

Bristol-based Vertical has been developing electric aircraft since launching in 2016. The VX4, earlier referred to as the VA-X4, was unveiled in 2020. It is a four-seater vehicle that can fly 100 miles at a speed of 200 miles/hour. The first flight was planned for last year but has been delayed until “later 2022.”

Vertical already partners with GKN, Rolls-Royce, Solvay, and Microsoft, but Leonardo adds valuable knowledge in the design of composite parts and structures. The agreement calls for the design, production, and testing of six test aircraft. Once certification is complete, large-scale production is planned at Leonardo Aero Structures’ Grottaglie-plant in South Italy which also produces segments for the Boeing 787. “Leonardo strives to bring new technologies, materials, and processes into our established practices in our production sites”, says managing director Giancarlo Schisano in a media statement.

So while the VX4 needs to demonstrate its capabilities, Vertical says it is the eVTOL company with the largest conditional pre-order book with commitments for some 1.350 aircraft from customers like American Airlines, Avolon, Bristow, Iberojet, Virgin Atlantic, and Marubeni, which owns lessor Aircastle.

On January 27, Vertical announced the appointment of Domhnal Slattery as its new CEO. Slattery will stay on as founding CEO of lessor Avolon, which placed a pre-order for 310 XV4s plus 190 options in June 2021.

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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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