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Japan Airlines grows its future air taxi fleet with Vertical, Volocopter deals

Japan Airlines (JAL) could purchase or lease up to 100 Vertical Aerospace VA-X4 eVTOL air taxis from aircraft leasing company Avolon under a strategic partnership announced this week.

Vertical Aerospace VA-X4 eVTOL Japan Airlines JAL
Vertical Aerospace CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick said his company is “delighted to be working with Avolon and our newest partner Japan Airlines as we bring zero-emissions aircraft to the Japanese market.” Avolon Image

The deal between JAL and Avolon’s investment and innovation affiliate, Avolon-e, gives JAL the right to purchase or lease up to 50 VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft from Avolon, with the option to purchase or lease up to 50 additional units. 

JAL and Avolon also plan to work together to identify local partners and customers, plus infrastructure and certification requirements, on the way to introducing one of the world’s first eVTOL ridesharing businesses in Japan. 

“This latest long-term partnership with JAL aligns us with one of Japan’s leading airlines on their journey to sustainability and to decarbonizing air transport,” Avolon CEO Dómhnal Slattery stated in a press release. 

Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace is planning initial certification of the five-seat, winged VA-X4 with the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority by 2024, with validation shortly thereafter by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. 

According to Slattery, “We believe JAL’s multi-decade experience will prove invaluable as Vertical seeks type certificate validation with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, demonstrating that the VA-X4 will be a global eVTOL, unconstrained by borders.” 

“Today’s announcement represents an important step towards the social implementation of air taxi at Osaka Kansai Expo in 2025,” added Tomohiro Nishihata, managing executive officer of Japan Airlines. “Our partnership with Avolon lays out the pathway towards achieving air mobility revolution in Japan.” 

Separately, the German eVTOL developer Volocopter confirmed that JAL has placed reservations for 100 of its multicopter aircraft, including both VoloCity air taxis and VoloDrone cargo vehicles. The companies entered into a cooperation agreement to develop urban air mobility (UAM) in Japan last year. 

Volocopter announced this week that it has joined the Osaka Roundtable with a commitment to fly at Expo 2025, which is envisioned as an early showcase for UAM in Japan. Volocopter said it plans to conduct public flight tests in the country as soon as 2023. 

“We are honored to be seated at the Osaka Roundtable and take flight at an important milestone of the Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai,” stated Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter. “Japan’s and Osaka’s commitment to UAM commercialization and its open approach allows us to be involved in pioneering them into the future of mobility.” 

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