Revolution.Aero Uplift: O for Optimism (and Oshkosh)
There’s always optimism in the air at EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. But last week’s event, staged after a year’s gap due to Covid-19, was extra special. For Jonathan Evans, KinectAir CEO, it evoked the excitement of his youth and the endless possibilities of flight. “I was walking through the halls of my memory, imagination and dreams of flight when I was a kid,” Evans told Revolution.Aero. He spent a lot of his childhood learning about the very aircraft parked at Oshkosh. So, his visit to Oshkosh mixed memory and ambition.
An even bigger high than seeing his dream aircraft is to witness the next chapter of aviation unfold before his eyes at Oshkosh – as a stakeholder and player in the arena.
VerdeGo Aero’s CEO and co-founder, Eric Bartsch echoed this optimism. “The aerospace industry was getting back to business,” he told Revolution.Aero. “A lot of players in advanced air mobility were doing business – although not exhibiting – behind the scenes. It was great to connect with people we hadn’t seen face-to-face in a while.”
A number of new happenings took place at the air show last week, including eVTOL maker Opener’s first public flight of its ultralight aircraft – which can take off from land or water. A fractional programme offered by KinectAir and VoltAero was announced and Volocopter had its first US flight.
Elsewhere last week, Joby also completed a 150-mile flight – it’s longest yet.
Chief commercial officer Christian Bauer, Volocopter told Revolution.Aero the manned, VoloCity flight has “sparked great discussions about the aircraft and our future air taxi services”. Bauer said: “It’s so important for our success that the public sees and experiences these aircraft up close and get their important questions answered before we launch commercially.”
The German eVTOL maker is in the process of certification with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for its proposed commercial launch within the next three years. Bauer said the US certification, through the FAA is likely to be process after. “Since the FAA has positively accepted our application for concurrent type certificate validation of the EASA type certificate, we can expect that the US certification will be processed shortly after first approval in Europe,” he said.
Overall, the VoloCity flight received “a positive response” from the organiser, visiting authorities and aviation enthusiasts, said Bauer.
VoltAero – KinectAir fractional programme
Evans believes he has a strong partner in Jean Botti, co-founder, VoltAero. “We are kindred spirits, and we share a common vision for where this industry can go,” he said.
KinectAir and VoltAero announced a fractional ownership programme at Oshkosh, whereby VoltAero’s four-seater hybrid-electric Cassio aircraft can be booked via KinectAir’s Pioneer programme. Individuals or companies can now reserve share positions, or whole aircraft, for use on regional routes on KinectAir’s regional network.
The Cassio’s hybrid configuration will allow the aircraft to fly fully electric for distances up to 120 miles (200kms), “mild” hybrid up to 370 miles (600kms) and “heavy” hybrid for the 740-plus mile range (1,200kms), Jean Botti, CEO and co-founder, VoltAero told Revolution.Aero. The cost per seat mile for Cassio flights will be approximately “70 cents on the dollar”.
Botti said a lot of people had been registering their interest for the programme. The companies want to use infrastructure that exists to launch the regional network.
“There is so much opportunity to use a place like Oshkosh – which is empty the rest of the year – and regional airports much better. We need to go back to the multiple regional airports where people don’t have to do 120 miles average to go and get to a hub. It is a big waste of CO2 even without the flying time,” Botti said from the exhibitor stand.
Their stand was one among 800 exhibitors who attended the show. So how many of these will really find a way to market? KinectAir’s Evans thinks the key to unlocking advanced air mobility progress lies in certification. All the aircraft doing tests today are flying under an experimental category. “But the leap between an experimental aircraft and a certified aircraft is orders of magnitude apart.”
VerdeGo’s Bartsch said he saw more commercial aviation activity than general aviation.
“There are a lot of exciting applications and aircraft programmes, as with any industry that is rapidly growing into new technologies. We’re seeing a significant market potential, great technology and the mission capabilities to be very useful. So I’m very positive about what I see coming out of this industry. There’s certainly going to be consolidation and attrition. But I think that’s to be expected any time you see a rapid advancement of technology.”
VerdeGo Aero found new customers and new partners at the show.
EAA AirVenture seemed like it was back – with 610,000 attendees over six days. Volocopter’s Bauer matched Evans’s enthusiasm for EAA AirVenture and the spirit it breeds.
“Oshkosh is a unique place – you get people from all walks of life and significant interest from them. Walking these vast grounds and seeing the passion for aviation in young and old was really touching,” he said.
For adult Evans, the air show represented “the art of the possible and the next frontier in aviation”.
PS: See images from EAA Air Venture 2021 here. (There are 4000+)