Helicopter operator Bristow is escalating its expansion in the emerging advanced air mobility (AAM) market with an agreement announced on Monday covering options for 50 of Lilium’s seven-seat eVTOL aircraft. Bristow already has made commitments to three other eVTOL developers, including Vertical Aerospace, Eve, and Overair, as well as for Electra’s new eSTOL model and Elroy Air’s Chapparal autonomous air cargo vehicle.
Under a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Germany-based Lilium, Bristow will provide maintenance support for Lilium Jets deployed in the manufacturer’s planned network of scheduled flights in Florida. The operator, which currently provides helicopter flights for the offshore oil and gas industry and for missions such as search and rescue, might also provide support for eVTOL passenger services in other U.S. and European markets.
With its Part 145 maintenance certification and multiple air operator certificates, Bristow will also help Lilium to secure the necessary operating approvals. It will be an authorized service provider for other operators of the all-electric Lilium Jet.
Given that all of its previous purchase agreements in the AAM sector remain provisional, it remains to be seen whether Bristow will add all of the various new aircraft types to its fleet or whether it is taking time to evaluate which will best suit its needs. The announcement with Lilium said that completion of the purchases remain subject to finalizing commercial terms and “satisfaction of certain conditions.”
Since August 2021, the operator has agreed to take up to 100 of Eve’s four-passenger eVTOL, up to 50 of the Vertical Aerospace VX4, and up to 50 of Overair’s Butterfly. It also has signed agreements covering up to 50 of Electra’s seven-seat eSTOL aircraft and the same number of the Chapparal.
“Leveraging our seventy-plus year legacy of innovative and sustainable vertical flight to partner with companies like Lilium to usher in a new era of vertical flight solutions is a cornerstone of Bristow’s future operational outlook,” said Bristow president and CEO Christopher Bradshaw. “Bristow has played a key role in successfully introducing several new VTOL [aircraft] platforms for the past fifty-plus years, so it is a natural evolution for us to take a leading role in the new and exciting AAM market and lend our expertise to innovative and dynamic companies like Lilium.”
Lilium expects to achieve EASA type certification in 2025. The piloted Lilium Jet will fly to a range of 155 miles and at speeds up to 175 mph. The manufacturer believes that it could scale the design for a version that would accommodate between 10 and 15 seats.