Brazilian Airline Gol To Operate Commercial eVTOL Flights

 - September 21, 2021, 11:58 AM
Brazilian airline Gol plans to operate Vertical Aerospace's VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft in cities like Sao Paulo. (Image: Avolon)

Brazilian airline Gol is joining forces with transportation company Grupo Comporte to offer ridesharing services with Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft. The companies on Tuesday announced an agreement with leasing group Avolon under which they will lease or buy 250 of the four-passenger aircraft, which are due to enter commercial service in 2024.

In June, Avolon ordered 310 VA-X4s from Vertical Aerospace, with options for another 190. In what was the largest eVTOL aircraft transaction to date, covering up to 1,000 units, American Airlines ordered 250 aircraft with options for 100 more and Virgin Atlantic Airways ordered 50 with 100 more on option.

The Ireland-based leasing company also joined American Airlines, Honeywell, and Rolls-Royce, as well as several of Vertical’s existing strategic investors, in supporting public investment in a private equity deal tied to the UK start-up’s planned merger and New York Stock Exchange listing with a special purpose acquisition company called Broadstone Acquisition Corp. This deal, which is due to close in the second half of this year, is expected to yield gross proceeds of around $394 million.

The all-electric VA-X4, which will be piloted when it enters service, is expected to have a range of up to 100 miles and a speed of 200 mph. Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace is preparing for a first flight with a full-scale prototype before the end of this year.

Gol is a low-cost carrier operating throughout Brazil and other parts of South America. Brazil-based Grupo Comporte has been active in passenger and freight road transportation since 2002, as well as in real estate development.

“Today’s announcement is a significant step in building an eVTOL ride-sharing platform that will reshape the commercial aviation market in Brazil,” said Avolon CEO Domhnal Slattery. “The opportunities to deploy the VA-X4 are enormous. Gol and Grupo Comporte both bring broad and diverse networks, along with proven track records of scaling business, making them the ideal strategic partners for Avolon.”

Under the September 21 agreement, the three companies will work together to identify and target local partners to be involved in its planned ridesharing services. They will also focus together on infrastructure and certification requirements for operations that they said could be conducted “across a range of commercial models.” The statement seemed to leave open the possibility that the eVTOL aircraft could be offered for use in various on-demand and scheduled services.

“The VA-X4 is ideal for a city like Sao Paulo with a population of over 22 million people,” said Vertical Aerospace CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick. “Our eVTOLs will transform how we travel around high-population-density cities that are clogged with traffic by taking to the skies with zero-emissions aircraft.”

In August, Brazilian airline Azul has agreed to buy 220 of Lilium’s eVTOL aircraft and is in talks with the German company to develop a network of commercial flights that could start in 2025. The provisional purchase agreement was valued at $1 billion, implying a unit price for the seven-seat all-electric Lilium Jet of $4.5 million.

The partners intend to co-brand scheduled services in a country that typically has around 100 million domestic airline passengers each year. Brazil is a strong market for business jets and also for chartered helicopter flights, which are commonly used to avoid serious road gridlock in major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.