Several of the country’s largest airlines have made long-term wagers on the direction of commercial passenger aviation’s future. Both United Airlines and American Airlines have orders for at least 50 aircraft from Boom Supersonic, a startup promising to revive supersonic airliners sustainably by the decade’s end. While the potential value of airlines offering much shorter flight times is obvious, the reasoning behind their investments in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft projects is unclear.
United Airlines has announced that it is making a second multi-million dollar investment in an eVTOL project. The major American carrier is investing $15 million in Eve Air Mobility after investing $10 million into eVTOL startup Archer Aviation in 2021. Eve, a former division of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer, is developing a four-seater aircraft, scheduled to begin fulfilling orders in 2026. United also has a conditional purchase agreement with Eve for 200 eVTOLs.
Andre Stein, co-CEO of Eve, said:
“United’s investment in Eve reinforces the trust in our products and services and strengthens our position in the North American market. I am confident that our UAM agnostic solutions, coupled with the global know-how we have been developing at Eve and Embraer’s heritage, are the best fit for this initiative, giving United’s customers a quick, economical and sustainable way to get to its hub airports and commute in dense urban environments. It is an unparalleled opportunity to work with United to advance the US UAM ecosystem, and we look forward to it.”
Stein succinctly lays out why airlines are interested in eVTOL aircraft. United and its competitors want to provide a desirable, carbon-neutral service where they effectively eliminate commutes to and from airport terminals. However, it seems like a fantasy for first and business-class passengers to fly from busy city centers out to an airport for their flight. If several airlines are going to offer eVTOL services, how crowded are the skies going to get and how is that additional air traffic going to be managed?