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Fri, Aug 12, 2022

United Puts Down $10-Million eVTOL Deposit

Archer Aviation Aquiver

Archer Aviation, the California-based designer of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has received a ten-million-dollar down-payment for one-hundred specimens of a four-place eVTOL vehicle the company is developing. The yet-to-be mass-produced contraption—somewhat ironically dubbed Maker—is currently undergoing flight testing. Archer claims Maker will have a per-charge range of up to sixty-miles and a maximum speed of around 150-miles-per-hour.

Archer Aviation acquired United as a customer in January 2021. The airline subsequently placed an order worth $1-billion that will fetch it some two-hundred of Archer’s eVTOLs. The deal contained options for additional aircraft worth another $500-million—heavy action for a company founded in 2018, and a wholly unproven aircraft. Still, Archer expects Maker will receive FAA approval by the end of 2024, after which the company looks to begin production and customer deliveries.

United Airlines Ventures president Michael Leskinen states: “This announcement marks a new important phase in our relationship with Archer, and our commitment to eVTOL technology. We are witnessing an inflection point where consumers, businesses, and policymakers are all aligned to prioritize technology that reduces the impact of climate change … We believe eVTOLs have the potential to both help achieve carbon-neutral travel and serve as an innovative new tool to change how United customers experience comfort, convenience, and efficiency during their commutes within cities across the globe.”

Mr. Leskinen further posited the cost of catching a ride aboard a United eVTOL will be comparable to the current cost of an Uber Black—the premium-level service offered by Uber. If Leskinen’s prediction holds, a ride from Manhattan to a New York hub airport stands to set travelers back to the tune of $120.

The feasibility, practicality, and affordability of eVTOL air taxis depends, however, on a great deal more than Archer’s ability to produce the things and United’s ability to market and man them. Enormous effort and expenditure must be invested in the creation of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) infrastructure, regulation, and airspace delineation. The FAA is currently evaluating means by which to train, test, and certify eVTOL pilots. The agency is also about the endeavor of determining how to smoothly integrate planned AAM flight corridors with existing low-altitude air traffic.

Proponents of Advanced Air Mobility construe United’s deposit an important sign that the eVTOL industry has matured beyond prototypes and stands at the precipice of ubiquity and fortune. Critics—to include numerous civil and aerospace engineers, financial institutions, and air carriers—are quick to point out Ford’s Edsel, Sony’s Betamax, New Coke, Microsoft’s Zune, and McDonald’s Arch Deluxe.

FMI: www.archer.com

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