French government gives go ahead on Seine vertiport construction


France’s Ministry of Transport has given authorisation for the construction of a floating landing pad on the River Seine in Paris for electric air taxi flight demonstrations during the Paris Olympics.

The ministry said that the pad “can be used until December 31, 2024”. The announcement will come as a relief for eVTOL air taxi developer Volocopter and Paris’ airport authority Groupe ADP after the pair announced its intentions to operate Europe’s first commercial air taxi flights in June last year.

However, Volocopter’s aircraft has not been authorised by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the DGAC to fly with a paying passenger as yet. The green light on that is forecasted for this autumn.

The landing site will float on the Seine near the Austerlitz railway station in southeastern Paris (digital rendering above), according to plans.

Operations will be restricted to between 8:00am and 5:00pm, with flights limited to two per hour. There is also a stipulation that no more than 900 movements will be conducted over the whole trial period due to the experimental nature of the aircraft. If the aircraft achieves two movements per hour every hour between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, that amounts to 50 full days of operations before the 900 flight mark is reached.

Four vertiports have already been set up in the Paris suburbs, including one at Charles de Gaulle airport and another at Paris-Le Bourget airport, the Austerlitz site will be the first in close proximity to the city centre.

A number of city officials in Paris have criticised the plans, stating operations will be harmful to the environment. Sources close to mayor Anne Hidalgo told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday that city hall would challenge the landing pad permit in court.

Last year, France’s national environment authority, Agence de la transition écologique, found that an impact assessment for the landing pad was “incomplete” on issues including noise pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.