A senior Airbus Helicopters executive last week expressed skepticism that eVTOL passenger aircraft would be put into commercial service anytime soon. Romain Trapp, president of Airbus Helicopters Inc.—the rotorcraft maker’s North American arm—told attendees at a Helicopter Association International (HAI) webinar that “we as an industry, we have to learn, and hopefully we are going to find at some point a game-changing technology, which I don’t see today, by the way.”
Trapp said that it could be “decades” before eVTOL aircraft were integrated into an advanced air mobility (AAM) environment. “What we all want to see as an industry is some game-changing technology that will bring us one step further," he explained. "The technology is not there, yet. And the regulatory environment has not even been defined, and for good reasons. Because at the end of the day, we still have a long way to go to be able to do so. What we all want is to be able to do so in a safe manner, with the highest level of safety, because this is what our industry is all about. There is a huge gap between flying when there is nobody else around you and flying in an environment where there are other [people around you].”
Trapp pointed to Airbus’s experimental Vahana and City Airbus demonstration eVTOL vehicles as examples of the company’s continuing commitment to AAM. “We have learned a lot of what [eVTOL] can and cannot do. We have invested a lot of money in it and will continue to do so,” he said.
When eVTOLs do make it to market, Trapp sees them as complementary to, as opposed to replacements for, traditional rotorcraft. “I don’t see when they come they will replace helicopters," he said. "All of [AAM] is complementary.” Trapp said it was unlikely eVTOLs could be substituted for conventional rotorcraft when it comes to certain types of operations, such as search and rescue. “When are we going to see a hoist operation with an eVTOL?” he asked rhetorically. “We still have a long way to go.”