Wheels Up, Bell Collaborate on First Step Toward UAM

 - April 12, 2021, 11:37 PM
Wheels Up and Bell are collaborating to bring urban air mobility (UAM) operations to fruition. Under the partnership, Wheels Up would likely use Bell 429 helicopters in the short term and the Nexus eVTOL (pictured) in the longer term to provide intra-city VTOL lift using existing helipads and airports. Service is expected to start in 2021. (Photo: Chad Trautvetter/AIN)

Wheels Up is collaborating with Bell to usher in what the companies claim will be the first step toward urban air mobility (UAM) operations. “This is the next evolution of private aircraft expansion,” said Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter. “We’re in the first inning of vertical lift.”

The partnership leverages the large customer base and Avianis flight scheduling software at Wheels Up and Bell’s VTOL aircraft—likely Bell 429 helicopters in the near term and Nexus eVTOLs in the longer term—to provide intra-urban travel from/to city centers using existing airports and helipads. The initial list of high-demand markets is currently under review, but service launch is expected later this year. Wheels Up also plans to provide this last-mile connectivity option to customers of Delta Air Lines, an existing partner.

“Introduction of VTOL transportation in these select markets will add to the seamless travel experience along the entire travel journey for the Wheels Up members and customers,” Wheels Up said. “This initiative will also enhance air travel flexibility and reduce vehicular congestion.”

The collaboration between Wheels Up and Bell will build on the former’s partnership with HeliFlite that was established in 2013. Under that deal, HeliFlite provides transfers for Wheels Up customers between Manhattan and local airports such as Teterboro, White Plains, and Farmingdale using Bell 430s and Sikorsky S-76s.