U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace is partnering with aerospace company Leonardo to develop the carbon composite fuselage for its VX4 eVTOL aircraft.
Under the agreement announced today, Leonardo will be lending its expertise in composite aerostructures development and manufacturing on civil and defense aerospace programs to help Vertical develop its first six certification aircraft. The companies said the partnership may scale up to mass production of 2,000 VX4 eVTOL annually.
Leonardo will dedicate its Grottaglie plant in Southern Italy on VX4 activities, where the companies said they will optimize lightweight composite structures, modular design, systems installation, and structural testing to develop the aircraft’s fuselage.
“I have been hugely impressed by Leonardo’s highly innovative and industry leading technical and manufacturing capabilities, and our partnership has got off to a flying start,” said Michael Cervenka, president of Vertical, in a press release.
Vertical has secured a total of 1,350 conditional pre-orders of its eVTOL aircraft, worth about $5.4 billion — what it believes to be the largest pre-order book in the industry. Cervenka said the partnership will help Vertical scale its program to meet demand.
Its customers include major names in the industry, including American Airlines, Avolon, Bristow, and Iberojet, among others. In addition to Leonardo, Vertical has also secured a number of partnerships with established aerospace companies to develop its aircraft, including Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, Microsoft, GKN, and Solvay.
The partnership with Vertical gives Leonardo a stake in the advanced air mobility (AAM) industry, a sector that Leonardo’s general manager Lucio Valerio Cioffi said is “part of Leonardo’s mandate to innovate using our cutting edge, human-centered technology and industrialization expertise. We’re proud to collaborate with Vertical as part of our strategic vision in this brand-new sector.”
Vertical, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange in December 2021, is designing its VX4 eVTOL air taxi as a piloted four-passenger aircraft, targeting a range of more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) and top speeds of 200 mph (322 km/h). The company said it is aiming to begin flight testing later this year, and expects to obtain type certification in 2024.