VTOL: The (aviation) future is vertical

One of the most compelling reasons that people travel by private jet is to save time. This need is something that private aviation serves well, with direct and bespoke itineraries between ten times as many airports around the world compared to airlines; no airport queues; a check-in time of just 15 minutes; and even driving up to the aircraft steps.

But for the ultimate in time-saving, flexible travel there is one big problem: Airports.

The need to fly to and from this fixed point takes up time in ground transfer (albeit less if you choose a closer, smaller airport). At the moment there is no way around that in civilian aviation. But what if you could fly in a private aircraft that could take off from any open space, not just an airport runway?

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 world’s first jeticopter

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?

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 +44 1747 642 777.