The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Turkish Operator Gozen Will Fly Vertical's VX4 eVTOL in Scheduled Services

Turkish aviation group Gozen Holding is to lease or purchase up to 50 of Vertical Aerospace’s VX4 eVTOL aircraft under an agreement with leasing group Avolon announced on March 29. The deal means that Avolon has now placed all 500 of the VX4s it agreed to buy from the UK-based manufacturer last year, plus an additional 50 options.

Gozen, which owns Freebird Airlines and ground-handling operation Gozen Air Services, has launched a strategic partnership with the Ireland-based leasing group’s Avolon-e division to prepare to commercialize eVTOL passenger services in Turkey. The companies said they will identify local partners to support operations, research market opportunities, and prepare the infrastructure and certification requirements for urban air mobility services in the country.

Out of a total of 1,400 provisional sales for the four-passenger VX4, Avolon has now placed aircraft with five operators, also including Japan Airlines (100 units), Brazil’s Gol (250), and AirAsia (100). Last week, Air Greenland agreed to add the all-electric vehicle to its fleet and although it did not specify how many units the deal covers, the number must be 50 based on the total sales confirmed by Avolon this week.

“As an integral part of the Turkish aviation industry, we feel it is incumbent upon us to be at the forefront of the sustainability movement and that is why we identified Avolon, and Vertical’s VX4, as the zero-emissions eVTOL aircraft that will revolutionize air travel,” commented Gozen CEO Mekin Gozen. “With over 15 million people living in Istanbul, the city is consistently faced with congestion that hinders both the city’s development and attractiveness as a tourist and business location. We strongly believe that the deployment of the VX4 will dramatically reshape Istanbul and the rest of Turkey.”

Vertical Aerospace is aiming to certify and start deliveries of the VX4 in 2024. The aircraft will operate with a pilot on board and is expected to have a range of over 100 miles and a top speed of just over 200 mph.

For now, the leasing group sees a viable business case only for scheduled flights operated by airlines, according to Marc Tembleque-Vilalta, head of Avolon-e. “We do not think on-demand [air taxi services] will be feasible for some time because it won’t be financially sustainable to operate aircraft this way,” he told FutureFlight. “Operators will have to wait for aircraft to fill up [with on-demand ride-hailing bookings] or fly empty most of the time. Also, the flights will have to start in controlled airspace and that will limit capacity.”

So far, no deposits have been made for the provisional orders placed with Vertical Aerospace, which is being funded by strategic investors that include several prospective customers, among them Avolon, American Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic Airways. Tembleque-Vilalta explained that it intends to settle on commercial terms with its group of customers once their joint working groups have finalized operating plans, which is expected to happen within 12 to 18 months of the initial agreements being signed. “It’s a bit too early now to talk about pre-delivery payments for the aircraft for which the design will only be frozen early next year, and by then we will have more clarity on what is a fair price for it,” he said.

For now, Avolon does not intend to place additional orders for eVTOL aircraft. While Tembleque-Vilalta sees demand outstripping supply among eVTOL aircraft operators, he said that Vertical Aerospace’s overall order book includes some flexibility in terms of optioned aircraft that could potentially be released for other customers.

Istanbul is set to host the 2022 AirTaxi World Congress from September 13 to 15. Global Travel Investments, which is organizing the event, says it expects it to include a live flight demonstration of an eVTOL aircraft, as well as over 2,500 "buyer-seller meetings."