This week’s Farnborough Airshow might not have been buzzing with commercial aircraft orders, but it was an airshow at which the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) eVTOLs were more prominent on display than at any other airshow. Let’s have a look. New eVTOLs prominently on display in Farnborough.
Vertical Aerospace kept flowing out press releases, but its main attraction was a full-scale model with a full interior of the VX4 in Hall 4 (main picture). It attracted loads of attention from the public, media, and partners which kept the top management and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick very busy.
The VX4 surprised many by the sheer size, being much bigger than most had thought after seeing it in animated pictures only until this week. When AirInsight had an opportunity to climb on board, the plush interior of the four-seater looked impressive. It seemed wider and more comfortable than that of the Embraer Eve, in which we sat earlier in the week and which we discussed in a story earlier this week.
The Vertical VX4 looks very luxurious inside and offers good space for four passengers. (Richard Schuurman)
During the show, Vertical made various announcements. One was about a partnership with Babock International about potential other versions of the VX4, including one for emergency medical services. Another one was about Vertical participating together with Virgin Atlantic, Atkins, Skyports, and air traffic agency NATS in a UK-government funded program to demonstrate the operational viability of AAMs in the UK, in particular at London Heathrow, London City, Bristol, and emerging vertiports.
At an industrial level, Vertical announced that it has selected CAE as its partner for the training of the pilots that will fly the VX4 and develop bespoke simulation devices. GKN Aerospace has delivered the first electric wiring interconnection system for the first flying prototype, which will have a yet-to-be manufactured wing that is also produced by GKN.
Another AAM player to unveil its cabin in Farnborough was Supernal, a less-known US-based company that is a subsidiary of Korean industrial giant Hyundai Motor Group. The company was even sponsoring the lanyards at the airshow to increase its brand.
The Supernal is a four-seat (excluding the pilot), with all passengers facing forward as opposed to the forward-backward arrangements seen in the Eve and Vertical cabins. It also has more the looks of ‘just’ a flying bus and lacks the kind of luxury that the other two have.
Supernal targets entry into service in the US in 2028, followed by the UK and Europe later on. It uses batteries from Electric Power Systems but Supernal is looking at hydrogen propulsion for use at a later stage. As reported earlier in the week, Hyundai and Rolls-Royce announced a partnership on the development of an electric system based on hydrogen for AAM applications, with 2025 targeted as the year to deliver a demonstrator.
Wisk was also prominently present at the airshow. It showcased the little yellow two-seater in a dedicated pavilion right next to Boeing’s static display and the MAX 10, confirming the strong ties between the US start-up and its major shareholder.
Wisk had the fifth version of its eVTOL on display, with a sixth version to be unveiled this fall. (Richard Schuurman)
The AAM on the show was the fifth iteration of the Wisk, with the sixth to be unveiled later this fall, said CEO Gary Gysin. That will be the one that Wisk plans to certify as its autonomously flying four-seater eVTOL. We will discuss Wisk a bit more in a separate story later on.
Germany’s Lilium Air Mobility only had a scale model on display. Its most important news was a couple of partnerships. One of them is with Bristow Group, which placed an option for fifty vehicles and also wants to offer maintenance services. However, as is the case in most announcements in the UAM market, this is a non-binding MoU. What makes it interesting is that Bristow is also committed to Vertical, again with an MoU for 25 VX4s plus 25 options.
Lilium also announced an agreement with Norway’s AAP Aviation Group to help develop a UAM network in Scandinavia. AAP CEO Espen Hoiby said in a media statement: “Due to the mix of water, terrain, and mountains, Norway is particularly suited to regional air mobility. With its vertical take-off and landing capability, high speed, and regional range, the Lilium Jet can achieve hours of time savings compared with today’s transportation modes. The Lilium Jet performance, its low noise profile and its spacious cabin make the ideal aircraft to develop sustainable air transport in Scandinavia.” AAP intends to purchase forty eVTOLs from Lilium.
No cabin, but only a scale model was on display at Lilium. The company announced some important new agreements. (Richard Schuurman)
In Spain, Lilium intends to do the same in a partnership with Helity Copter Airlines, specifically in Andalusia. It also intends to purchase five vehicles. Helity is a Spanish company that offers helicopter shuttle flights between Ceuta, Algeciras, and Malaga as well as private charter flights in southern Spain.
ASL Group intends to purchase six Liliums for operations in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg, and western Germany. This is the first time an operator plans AAM services in the Benelux countries. For this, it will help to develop a network of landing sites. “With the highest population density in Europe, Benelux represents a perfect use case for eVTOL transportation, and we are proud to support ASL’s development in the region,” said Lilium CEO Daniel Wiegand.
Absent from Farnborough was Joby Aviation.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.