It appears that flying taxis, also known as air taxis, are becoming more of a reality and are being considered as a potential form of everyday transportation. The United States and Europe are both making progress in this area, with the US aviation regulators recently publishing rules to include these vehicles in the list of licensed aircraft, and the European industry aiming to launch air taxis for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The appeal of air taxis lies in their ability to bypass traffic congestion in urban areas, making them a potentially viable alternative to traditional forms of transportation. Many major airlines are also investing in this technology and are placing orders for air taxis, leading to increased confidence in the success of start-ups in this sector.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently expanded the list of aircraft and helicopters that qualify as air carriers, allowing operators to use them for commercial purposes. The FAA was under pressure to take this step because of the growing interest in flying taxis, or air taxis, as a form of transportation.
The rules for operating such vehicles are expected to be published in the summer of 2023, and will provide more specific guidelines for companies to follow in order to obtain a pilot’s license and begin operating air taxis. The FAA’s decision to allow commercial use of air taxis appears to be a significant step towards acceptance of this technology as a viable transportation option.
Walter Desrosier, vice president of engineering and maintenance at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, called the decision an “absolutely essential first step”.
“It is extremely positive, but the details are still to come,” he said.
Most analysts expect flying taxis to officially take off in 2024 or 2025 at the earliest. Part of the reason for the delay is the ongoing debate over regulating the new planes.
Despite the uncertain timeline, United Airlines and Delta are among the big companies that have spent millions of dollars on the idea in recent months. Many companies around the world are competing for planes in production.
Robin Riedel, a partner at McKinsey and co-leader of the firm’s Future Mobility Center, said many of the companies starting now are likely to fail. They face technical challenges and the challenge of gaining public trust and reducing costs enough to make flying taxis more widely available.
He expects that by 2030, such journeys will be limited to certain cities and routes and will be used mainly by the rich and business travellers.
“Of course, no one wants to build another toy exclusively for the rich, as that would reach a very limited market,” he explains. But, he added, “we have to be realistic”.