Japan Airlines (JAL) has a new partnership agreement with Avolon to purchase up to 50 VA-X4 eVTOLs in the future. (Avolon)
Under a new partnership signed with Dublin, Ireland-based aircraft leasing company Avolon, Japan Airlines (JAL) will have the right to purchase or lease up to 50 Vertical VA-X5 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Avolon-e, the investment and innovation affiliate to Avolon, is leading the strategic partnership signed with JAL that will focus on identifying partnership, customers, infrastructure requirements, certification and "a range of commercial models to introduce one of the world’s first eVTOL ride sharing businesses in Japan," according to an Oct. 20 press release. The new partnership also includes an option for JAL to purchase 50 additional VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft.
JAL's goal under the new partnership is to have their first VA-X4 eVTOL ready for entry-into-service in 2025, in time for the Osaka Kansai Expo occurring the same year.
"Today’s announcement represents an important step towards the social implementation of Air Taxi at Osaka Kansai EXPO in 2025. Our partnership with Avolon, lays out the pathway towards achieving Air Mobility revolution in Japan. The introduction of VA-X4 will also contribute to reduce our environmental impact and we fundamentally believe that sustainability will be the engine for future growth across our business and region. We look forward to collaborating closely with Avolon and Vertical on the roadmap to certification for the VA-X4 with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau," Tomohiro Nishihata, managing executive officer of Japan Airlines, said in a statement.
Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL, the VA-X4, has a range of over 100 miles with a top speed of 202 mph and a five-person capacity, according to the company’s website. Vertical Aerospace is expecting the VA-X4 to be certified in 2024. The aircraft is also expected to take its first test flight this year.
Avolon recently established another similar future-facing purchase order agreement with GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A., the largest airline in Brazil. In September, GOL committed to the purchase or lease of up to 250 VA-X4s, and will also be collaborating with Avolon on identification of local partners, infrastructure and certification requirements, with the goal of launching an eVTOL network for the South American country in the near future. The aircraft leasing provider signed a purchase agreement for 500 VA-X4s in June to become Vertical Aerospace's eVTOL launch customer.
“We continue to identify partners who share the same vision to revolutionise air travel through zero-emissions eVTOL aircraft and shape the future of travel. This latest long-term partnership with JAL aligns us with one of Japan’s leading airlines on their journey to sustainability and to decarbonizing air transport. The VA-X4 will be certified to CAA and EASA’s stringent safety regulation," Dómhnal Slattery, Avolon CEO, commented. "We believe JAL’s multi-decade experience will prove invaluable as Vertical seeks type certificate validation with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, demonstrating that the VA-X4 will be a global eVTOL, unconstrained by borders.”
Vertical Aerospace now claims — including Avalon's 500-eVTOL order — that it has for a total of up to 1,350 aircraft preorders from American Airlines, Avolon, Bristow and Iberojet, which includes pre-order options from Virgin Atlantic and Marubeni. The company was also recently named as one of two eVTOL aircraft — Lillium being the other — that will be the launch platform for Honeywell's next generation cloud-native Anthem cockpit system.
Vertical Aerospace has also continued to expand its aerospace engineering and leadership expertise in recent weeks, adding former Rolls Royce Chief People Officer Harry Holt as their new Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Justin Paines — previously Joby Aviation's test pilot — as their new chief test pilot.
“The VA-X4 will transform how we travel. We are delighted to be working with Avolon and our newest partner Japan Airlines as we bring zero-emissions aircraft to the Japanese market,” Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical CEO said in a statement. “JAL’s experience will strengthen the certification roadmap in Japan demonstrating our global view as we make eVTOLs a reality.”