In February United Airlines made a splash ordering electric aircraft with the idea of transporting people from urban centers like Manhattan over to Newark. Now four months later American Airlines announces that it, too, is investing in urban air mobility, maybe. (Emphasis mine.)
American Airlines today announced it will invest in Vertical Aerospace, a leading UK-headquartered engineering and aeronautical business developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
…As part of its investment in Vertical, American has agreed to pre-order, subject to certain future agreed upon milestones and other terms, up to 250 aircraft, representing a potential pre-order commitment of $1 billion, and an option to order an additional 100 aircraft. The airline also expects to make a $25 million investment in Vertical through a private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction. Vertical is developing the VA-X4, a zero-carbon aircraft that can carry four passengers and a pilot, and fly at speeds up to 200 mph over a range of over 100 miles.
Will we ever see this? Maybe. The aircraft in question hasn’t had a test flight yet, but they’re touting that “certification of the aircraft [could come] as early as 2024” which means it will be farther out into the future than that.
Like United Airlines, American Airlines cannot buy back stock and they cannot pay dividends because of restrictions they agreed to accepting about $10 billion in government subsidies. Now they’re turning around and using taxpayer cash to invest in technologies they argue are green. U.S. airlines are hoping a Biden administration will shell out more taxpayer cash for green investment.
In some ways this feels like American Airlines investing in China Southern (which they already wrote down substantially before the pandemic) after Delta bought into China Eastern.
On the other hand American wrote a big check for that. They may not write one here. It occurs to me their press release doesn’t include any multimedia, doesn’t include much discussion of the potential this brings to customers. It doesn’t talk much about the aircraft. The news hasn’t even been tweeted by American yet. Vertical Aerospace is at least tweeting it, and by the way a conditional pre-order from Virgin Atlantic gets just as much billing.
We're excited to announce investment from some of the world's largest, most respected aviation and tech companies including @AmericanAir @RollsRoyce @Honeywell @avolon_aero and @M12vc with conditional pre-orders for up to 1000 aircraft from @VirginAtlantic @AmericanAir and Avolon
— Vertical Aerospace (@VerticalAero) June 10, 2021
How long until American follows United with an order for supersonic aircraft.