By Fangzhong Guo
United Airlines Firms eVTOL Order with Payment to Archer
Archer Aviation announced on Aug. 15 that it had received a $10 million pre-delivery payment from United Airlines. Archer secured the order of 100 with United in April 2021. The order was valued at $1 billion, meaning United Airlines put a 1% downpayment for the new aircraft.
The payment marks one of the most significant cash transactions in this sector. Until last month, most deals made public were non-binding letters of intent. American Airlines announced commitments for pre-delivery payment to Vertical Aerospace in July, which boosted the industry’s confidence that money would begin regularly changing hands. However, the announcement did not indicate an immediate monetary transaction. Unlike Vertical Aerospace, Archer Aviation clearly received funds from its customer before its press release.
The electric plane maker also announced the name for its first production airplane, dubbed Midnight. It will be piloted and can carry four passengers for up to 45 trips under 20 miles. Archer expects to deliver the first airplanes in 2024-2025.
The company is conducting a flight test campaign on its technology demonstrator, Archer Maker. So far, the planemaker has tested the airplane’s vertical take-off and landing configuration. At the end of July, it announced that the plane had completed critical azimuth flight tests that simulated wind coming from different directions. The San Jose-based company expects to start transitional flight tests near the end of 2022.
The company also posted new footage of its prototype. In the latest video, the plane maker showcased the Maker’s ability to hover and move in different altitudes and directions. The footage showed significant improvement in hover stability compared to the first hover video from December 2021. The company also changed the Maker’s livery to a silver tone rather than the all-black livery it wore during the first hover.
The Chicago-based airline has been at the forefront of sustainability investments. The airline has agreements in almost all sectors of sustainable aviation technologies. Besides sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and carbon capture, it has a few new energy aircraft on order.
United went on a shopping craze in 2021. After signing the agreement with Archer Aviation, it also invested in Electric Regional plane maker Heart Aerospace for the 19-seat airplane ES-19. Later in the year, it also invested in the Hydrogen-electric engine company ZeroAvia.
On the other end of the spectrum, United also has 15 Boom supersonic aircraft on order on order. However, it committed itself to use 100% SAF to offset the high fuel consumption.
The electric air taxi market is one of the fiercest in the innovative aviation space. Besides the United-Archer partnership and the aforementioned American-Vertical deal, all the major airplane manufacturers are also heavily invested in this sector.
Boeing invested $450 million in Wisk earlier this year. Wisk has been flying its current generation prototype since 2018. Similarly, Airbus’s electric flight program has also been flying since 2018 and is planning on its maiden flight for the next generation aircraft cityAirbus NextGen in 2023. Embraer also has its urban air mobility arm, Eve Air Mobility. Despite having flown a prototype, it also targets the same entry into service timeframe in 2025.