“We are great at doing six-hour flights in business jets, but now had to learn how to do six-minute flights in rotorcraft,” Directional Aviation principal Kenn Ricci told AIN in explaining why the company purchased two helicopter operators—Associated Air Group (AAG) in the New York City area and Halo Aviation in London—in its quest to launch eVTOL urban air mobility service around 2025. “Operating helicopters now in the UAM environment gives us time on how to be proficient on very short flights.”
Ricci also gave more background on why the company’s Halo UAM subsidiary placed a large fleet order last week for eVTOLs from Embraer-affiliated Eve Urban Air Mobility. “Embraer not only knows how to certify an aircraft but also understands you need a production certificate to build in quantity,” he said, noting that some eVTOL startups are focused solely on aircraft approval and lack plans on how to obtain a production certificate.
“Embraer also has a firm handle on product support and, unlike some eVTOL manufacturers, doesn’t plan on also operating the eVTOLs—they won’t be our competitor.” In addition, Eve will seek Brazil DGAC certification first and then get reciprocal FAA approval, bypassing the “dozen or so eVTOL OEMs that will be waiting in line for FAA certification.”
“Eve is also a UAM machine,” he added. Ricci said Halo is interested in a shorter-range aircraft such as Eve versus a longer-range “regional mobility” machine such as the Lilium Jet. Internal analysis at Directional also advised to stay away from tiltrotor designs since they are more complex, he noted.
According to Ricci, Halo will announce more details later this year about how and where it plans to conduct UAM operations. “The AAG Sikorsky fleet is pretty big, so we can deploy helicopters to other U.S. cities to expand our UAM ops. We’re currently identifying the most attractive eVTOL markets before we move those assets,” he said. “And we’ll also announce our go-to-market strategy in the fall.”
Ricci sees three distinct five-year phases for eVTOL UAM operations. Between 2025 and 2030, he envisions manned (meaning piloted) eVTOLs flying from landing pad to landing pad. In the following five years, operations will expand to “alternative pads” such as parking garage rooftops and some streets. After 2035, Ricci expects eVTOL operations to become autonomous, meaning no pilots on board.