Here’s something unexpected: AirAsia is planning to lease 100 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to perform short distance hop flights through its ride sharing service. But can it be afforable?
The lease itself is part of a deal struck with Avolon who themselves placed a 500 unit order from the startup aircraft manufacturer Vertical Aerospace with one fifth of that allocation bound for Malaysia.
Called the VX4, the unique zero-emissions VTOL aircraft dispenses with the need for a runway and, obviously, takes off vertically via its articulating rotors mounted on fixed wings.
With electric propulsion tech is supplied by Rolls Royce and total output rated at 1 megawatt (or 1,341 horsepower), the VX4 is capable of speeds of up to 325km/h and has a claimed range of 160km and can carry 4 passengers as well as a pilot.
Tony Fernandes said in a statement: “I am truly excited about this partnership between Avolon and AirAsia and the potential for zero-emissions ultra-short-haul air travel in Southeast Asia. The digital era is now. In the VX4, we have identified what we believe will be the eVTOL aircraft of choice and we are thrilled to be the launch airline for the aircraft in Southeast Asia,”
“We are also delighted to extend our long-standing relationship with Avolon, which has a proven track record of delivering for its customers and is in sync with our goal to become the leading one stop travel and delivery platform in ASEAN.”
With test flights due to commence as early as April, AirAsia’s newly minted parent company Capital A is optimistic that regulators in Malaysia and Singapore will be quick to approve the VX4 and its new short-distance flights for operation with countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines taking more time.
Fernandes emphasised that these eVTOL flights were meant “for everyone” and not only accessible to the wealthy despite the precedent set by personal aircraft such as private jets and short distance helicopter travel.
Bookings can presumably be made via AirAsia’s mobile app as you would for their traditional ride sharing service and it will be interesting to contrast the price between booking a journey in a car to one where an aircraft descends from the sky.
Lots is still unknown about how exactly this service will work and if there really is a market for it. Journeys will need to be spaced out more widely as the eVTOL aircraft will still need space to land, and given its 160km range it presumably could work more like a (super) short haul airline rather than a ride hailing vehicle.
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