Why The Future of Aviation Is Vertical

What do you get when you cross a plane with a helicopter? You get the ultimate, almost perfect, flying machine.

When it comes to flying by private jet, many choose to do so in order to make the most of their time. Thanks to flexible itineraries and the ability to use over ten times more airports than commercial aircraft – private jet charter is perfect when you need to get from A to B fast.

However, the need to use a runway is one of the biggest issues when creating the ultimate time-saving, flexible travel lifestyle. Plus the need to fly to and from a specific point takes up time in ground transfer (unless you’ve found a very close, much smaller airport near your destination).

While at the moment, there is no way around that when it comes to civilian aviation, what if there was a way you could take off from an open space like a helicopter, but fly just as far (and fast) as an aircraft? Introducing the VTOL aircraft…

Lilium ground

VTOL aircraft promise to revolutionise passenger air travel. Image: Lilium Aviation

What is a VTOL aircraft?

A VTOL aircraft takes potential time saving travel to a new level, by avoiding runways entirely.

VTOL stands for vertical take off and landing. So this denotes an aircraft that can take off and land from a single point, without requiring the horizontal space of a runway. The obvious existing VTOL aircraft is a helicopter (and others exist in military aviation). Though of course helicopters usually only fulfil a short range trip, with limited storage space and higher levels of cabin noise.

So a VTOL passenger aircraft that could combine the agility of a helicopter, with the range, space and comfort of a private jet, is a tantalising prospect. Those with large grounds or gardens could travel with far fewer boundaries, and almost any direct routing could be made possible.

There are a number of VTOL (vertical take off and landing) concepts that are bringing this reality closer than you might think.

The TriFan 600

TriFan 600

The TriFan 600.

The TriFan 600 is a VTOL aircraft concept launched by startup XTI Aircraft Company, in Denver, U.S. The company has launched a crowdfunding operation to try to bring it to reality (read more about this in the recent Financial Times Business Aviation Special Report).

The 6-seater TriFan 600 is designed to match the range and speed of existing small business jets, with a cruising speed of 340 kts and range of 1025 nm. It can take off vertically or on a runway, like a conventional aircraft.

XTI plans a full-scale proof-of-concept aircraft for 2020, and projects deliveries to start between 2024-26.

TriFan 600 landing

The TriFan 600 can land on a single spot, without the need for a runway.

Read more about the TriFan 600 in our previous post: The Jet That Thinks It’s a Helicopter

Lilium

Lilium is an all-electric VTOL aircraft backed by the European Space Agency and led by a team of engineers from Munich’s Technical University.

The small aircraft is already at scaled-down prototype stage with a full-size prototype underway. Lilium aims to open its order book in 2018.

Read more about Lilium in our previous post: The flying car in your garage

Lilium skyline

VTOL concept Lilium opens up an infinite variety of possible routings.

Elon Musk’s ‘Tesla with Wings’

While no clear details have yet emerged, transport entrepreneur Elon Musk has also spoken several time about the exciting potential of VTOL electric aircraft.

Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors and CEO of SpaceX, believes he has ‘something that might be close’.

(Read more: How Airbus’ electric aircraft concept E-Fan compares to Elon Musk’s Model s 85 D Tesla).

Is there a demand for VTOL aircraft?

Earlier this year, Bell Helicopter and Embraer decided to partner up with Uber to develop a hybrid- or all-electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles to provide short-range transport within urban centers. While electric-powered aerial taxis still face an array of technological and legal obstacles, the idea of a VTOL taxi could revolutionize the transportation industry – flying above road traffic in crowded cities & getting customers where they need to go faster.

In addition to saving time, many of our clients are also very interested in choosing aircraft that deliver on latest aviation innovation and technology. So VTOL aircraft will be of interest to the individual high net worth customer, if the manufacturers manage to get to market with the avionics and critical elements right.

Customer interest will of course need to be converted with the reassurance of the more down-to-earth factors of price, safety and performance.

Other markets it would open up would be for aviation solutions for sectors such as oil and gas, manufacturing, real estate – flights that involve a site visit to a relatively remote location, where a VTOL aircraft could potentially offer more range, speed, space and comfort than a conventional helicopter. This would also be the case with medical evacuation flights.

If you’re looking for advice or prices on helicopter charter or any type of private aircraft, our Flight Team can advise on the best options for your flight. Contact us (24 hours) or call (866) 726-1222.