Leasing Groups Tap Airline Interest in Electric Aircraft

 - October 20, 2021, 10:41 AM
Aura Aero is developing a 19-seat hybrid electric regional airliner. (Image: Aura Aero)

Two aircraft leasing deals announced this week reflect the sector’s growing interest in electric aviation. Japan Airlines (JAL) on Wednesday agreed to lease or purchase up to 100 of Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft from leasing group Avolon. Word of the deal came less than 24 hours after Amedeo has agreed to buy 200 of the 19-seat, hybrid-electric aircraft being developed by Toulouse, France-based start-up Aura Aero.

JAL now holds rights to take an initial 50 of the four-passenger vehicles, with options for up to 50 more, as part of a provisional order placed by Avolon with Vertical Aerospace in September for 310 units and options for 190 more. In September, Brazilian airline Gol and transportation company Grupo Comporte agreed to lease or buy 250 of the VA-X4s from Avolon.

Through its investment and innovation division, Avolon-e, the Ireland-based leasing group, has launched a strategic partnership with JAL to prepare the way for launching scheduled advanced air mobility services in Japan in time for the Osaka Kansai Expo event in 2025. Vertical Aerospace expects to complete EASA type certification for the VA-X4 in 2024.

The companies will identify local partners and customers for eVTOL flights, establish infrastructure requirements, support efforts to certify the aircraft with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, and develop a commercial model for what they describe as ride-sharing services. “Our partnership with Avolon lays out the pathway towards achieving an air mobility revolution in Japan,” said JAL’s managing executive officer, Tomohiro Nishihata. “The introduction of the VA-X4 will contribute to reducing our environmental impact, and we fundamentally believe that sustainability will be the engine for future growth across our business and region.”

Under the terms of the October 19 letter of intent between Amedeo and Aura Aero, the Ireland-based asset management company has entered a strategic partnership to support the development of the Electrical Regional Aircraft (ERA), which the manufacturer expects to enter commercial service in 2026, offering a range of just over 780 nm.

Aura Aero says it is on track for a first flight in 2022 of its smaller all-electric Integral light aircraft, which it is marketing to flight training schools and aerobatic clubs. The company sees the smaller aircraft as a technological step toward developing the larger ERA model.

“We are very pleased to be partnered with Aura Aero in leading such an important climate-supporting initiative,” said Amedeo chief commercial officer Gabriella Lapidus. “For Amedeo, sustainable aviation is more than aspirational and we are committed and focused on partnerships in sustainable aviation that will define the next three decades in aerospace. We have seen various concepts in the market and Aura Aero has an edge with the skill set, talent, and design that we stand behind.”

Amedeo has not disclosed the commercial terms of the letter of intent. The company manages a portfolio of 39 Airbus and Boeing widebody airliners valued at over $7 billion, including a mix of A380s, A330s, A350s, 777s, and 747 freighters.

Aura Aero, which earlier this year opened a 38,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility in a former French air force hangar near Toulouse, says that it already holds orders for 50 examples of the two-seat Integral model. The company has been developing three versions of the aircraft.

The ERA prototype should be ready to start flight testing in 2024. Early concept drawings show a design with six sets of propellers on the wings. Aura Aero has not provided any information about the proposed propulsion system or who its key suppliers might be, apart from announcing an agreement in March with battery maker Verkor.

This story is from FutureFlight.aero, a news and information resource developed by AIN to provide objective, independent coverage, and analysis of cutting-edge aviation technology, including electric aircraft developments and advanced air mobility.