Falcon Aviation has unveiled a special-purpose terminal it expects to contribute to the development of urban mobility transportation in the UAE, set to launch at Dubai Expo 2020. The timing of the Leonardo-designed terminal's opening should fit nicely with upcoming certification and service entry of the Leonardo AW609 tiltrotor, George Prentzas, Falcon Aviation executive managing committee member, told AIN on the sidelines of an unveiling ceremony for the concept that took place on Sunday at the Dubai Airshow. Urban air mobility vehicles hold the promise of providing short-distance electrically powered flight in congested metropolitan areas.
“The aircraft is under evaluation at the moment,” he said, referring to the AW609 (although it is not electrically powered). “We have confirmed that the terminal—the building that is going to accommodate all passenger requirements in one area—is going to [meet] the level of service that we want to offer to our passengers. We are evaluating several locations, but at the moment we know for a fact that it's going to be [in operation] at the Expo 2020. [In time, there could be] several of these around the country.”
Prentzas said Falcon (Stand 1640) is in the middle of a thorough analysis of whether to induct the tiltrotor into its fleet, as EASA and FAA certification should occur relatively soon.
“When you do your studies in general, and this is my personal opinion, tiltrotor is the future, but I cannot confirm right now the results of the evaluation the Falcon operation is doing,” he said. “There is a key moment where you have to decide where are you going commercially. There are so many missions that we need to explore and certain aspects that need to be evaluated.”
The AW609 has a range of 600-700 miles and would be ideal for point-to-point operations, said Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters (Pavilion P8). “It will be a step higher on mobility. You won't need to go to the airport and take a plane from Milan to Paris. It will change the way we do transportation."
In Prentzas’s view, the question of urban mobility is bound up in the need to develop cleaner air transportation. “Air mobility is affecting lives. Everybody has to contribute from any position in any industry in order to add better, more efficient, and cleaner transportation. Travel on autonomous air taxis—these aircraft will not be piloted—will [will become commonplace] around 15 years from now.”