Vertical Aerospace president Michael Cervenka warned that unless the U.S. and Europe can align on policy, regulation, and global collaboration, neither will be able to take a leadership role in advanced air mobility (AAM). Instead, Asia will emerge as a leader, Cervenka told attendees on Wednesday at the Honeywell Air Mobility Summit 2022 in Washington, D.C.
“The megatrend, the biggest market opportunities will be in Asia and that’s where we will end up putting our focus,” he said. Cervenka addressed comments made throughout the day surrounding what was necessary to help make AAM a reality and how the U.S. can take a leadership role in those efforts.
Noting he had been in the eVTOL space for seven years, Cervenka said he has seen “this world go from hype” to a world where “people are no longer questioning, ‘Is this going to happen. Is it real?'” Now people are asking how can it be done safely, he said. “From our perspective, this is absolutely an ecosystem and a collaboration that is going to make it happen.”
As far as U.S leadership in the market, he noted that while it is a really important market, it represents about 20 percent of the forecast for future eVTOLs. “So, if the U.S. wants to lead, it needs to take a really global perspective.”
Since Vertical is based in Bristol in the UK, he added that the company comes from a perspective of collaborating globally and has taken a partnership approach. “We are very focused on developing a world-class, piloted four-passenger eVTOL, but we're doing it as part of an ecosystem,” he said, noting Honeywell was its first industrial partner.
“I strongly believe actually that this partnership between new startups and incumbents that have got all of those [research and development] pipelines, industrial capabilities, and certification capabilities is actually how we're going to transform this industry,” he said, listing Rolls-Royce, Solvay, GKN, and Microsoft, among others, as partners.
The company has sold about 1,400 of its VX4 aircraft, he noted, including to a large leasing company, airlines, and air tour operators, as well as business jet and helicopter operators. These sales have been in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. “It’s really a global opportunity.”
However, a concern is the alignment of regulation and policy, globally. Lessors care about the portability of their assets, making that alignment all the more important.
Pointing to EASA and the FAA, he said “it’s bizarre to me that we currently have a dislocation between those two organizations. They come from different philosophies, different principles, and different risk appetites.” But if you are a leasing company, you care that you can sell the eVTOL to a U.S. and European operator.