Blade Urban Air Mobility is partnering with Vertiport Chicago for the exclusive right to sell passenger flight by-the-seat at the location, which will be rebranded Vertiport Chicago Powered by Blade.
Blade partner Helicopters, Inc. will station Bell helicopters at the vertiport to fly passengers to destinations including Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Notre Dame, Lake Geneva and other lake communities, as well as service Chicago hospitals through the company’s organ transport business segment.
It’s the first US expansion off of the east and west coasts for Blade, which announced in December it will become a publicly listed company through a merger with blank-check acquisition company Experience Investment Corp. (Nasdaq: EXPC). That deal netted Blade $400 million in gross proceeds which the company stated in its presentation to investors would be used to strategically acquire heliports, logistics bases and other infrastructure to enable its expansion.
“Chicago is the third largest city in the United States. It is the right time for us to establish a strategic presence in this important market,” said Melissa Tomkiel, president of Blade. “There are a number of passenger routes where we see real potential, and we look forward to enabling local hospitals to take advantage of Blade’s cost-effective MediMobility human organ air transport business.”
For both Blade and Vertiport Chicago, the deal is future-oriented with an eye toward the eventual introduction of eVTOL aircraft, which promise cheaper operating costs and less noise pollution that could dramatically expand the market for vertical lift in urban areas. The two companies will work together to ensure the vertiport “has the necessary infrastructure to support the transition to next-generation Electric Vertical Aircraft,” according to a Blade press release.
“The build out of infrastructure for next generation vertical air travel in Chicago is beginning now,” said Daniel Mojica, executive director of Vertiport Chicago. “Our alliance with Blade will only serve to accelerate our ability to help create the network of landing zones our city needs to be competitive in the future.”
Blade has recently faced opposition in its core market of the greater New York City region to expansion of route service, with local residents primarily concerned about noise pollution — though also citing safety, environmental concerns and the socioeconomic distinction between those negatively affected from rotorcraft and those who have access to them.
With Blade hoping to increase its revenues more than tenfold in the next five years, expansion into new regions and a focus on transitioning to quieter and cheaper eVTOL technology will be key to maintaining its leadership position in the emerging urban air mobility market.