The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Japan Airlines Could Take Up to 100 eVTOL Aircraft as Air Taxi Plans for 2025 Osaka Kansai Expo Advance

Japan Airlines (JAL) is to lease or purchase up to 100 of Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft from leasing group Avolon. In an agreement announced on October 20, the carrier said it holds rights to take an initial 50 of the four-passenger vehicle, with options for up to 50 more, as part of a provisional order placed by Avolon with the manufacturer in September for 310 units and options for 190 more.

Through its investment and innovation division, Avolon-e, the Ireland-based leasing group said it has launched a strategic partnership with JAL to prepare the way for launching scheduled advanced air mobility services in Japan in time for the Osaka Kansai Expo event in 2025. The companies will identify local partners and customers for eVTOL flights, establish infrastructure requirements, support efforts to certify the aircraft with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, and develop a commercial model for what they describe as ride-sharing services.

“Our partnership with Avolon lays out the pathway towards achieving an air mobility revolution in Japan,” said JAL’s managing executive officer, Tomohiro Nishihata. “The introduction of the VA-X4 will contribute to reducing our environmental impact and we fundamentally believe that sustainability will be the engine for future growth across our business and region.”

In September, Brazilian airline Gol and transportation company Grupo Comporte agreed to lease or buy 250 of the VA-X4s from Avolon. During the same month, Vertical Aerospace announced a deal through which Japanese trading and investment conglomerate Marubeni Corporation placed a “preorder option” for 200 of the all-electric aircraft.

Meanwhile, another eVTOL aircraft developer, Volocopter, has joined Japan’s Osaka Roundtable group, which is working to advance plans for urban air mobility in time for the 2025 Expo event. The Osaka Prefecture is one of Asia’s most vibrant industrial regions and has a population of nine million people.

Japan Airlines is an investor in Germany-based Volocopter and has committed to operating its two-seat autonomous VoloCity eVTOL. Volocopter plans to conduct public test flights in Japan during 2023.

According to Volocopter, Japan is one of the few countries worldwide that is developing a comprehensive plan for launching urban air mobility services. “Japan’s and Osaka’s commitment to UAM commercialization and its open approach allow us to be involved in pioneering them into the future of mobility,” said Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. “As the world’s first and only eVTOL developer with successful public flights in several continents and a family of multifunctional aircraft [which also include the VoloDrone freight platform and the larger, longer-range VoloConnect model], we are confident that we will become an integral part of Japan’s future UAM ecosystem.”

Volocopter also intends to launch eVTOL air taxi services in Singapore in the next three years. Recently, it announced plans to deliver 150 of its aircraft to Chinese partner and investor Geely within five years.