United Airlines to launch first commercial electric air taxi route with Archer Aviation in Chicago

Leading global airline company United Airlines is set to launch the first electric air taxi route in Chicago in collaboration with Archer Aviation using Archer’s electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

United Airlines, the third-largest air carrier in the US, announced its intentions in 2020 to go 100% green by 2050 by completely erasing greenhouse gas emissions from its operations “without relying on traditional carbon offsets.”

To achieve its goal, United has made a series of investments and partnerships in zero-emission technology, including an investment in electric aircraft startup Heart Aerospace in July 2021.

Heart Aerospace is developing a fully electric 19-seat aircraft capable of flying customers up to 250 miles before the end of the decade. However, United says it’s confident it can fast-track the introduction as early as 2026.

Once complete, Heart says its ES-19 aircraft will be larger than any of its all-electric competition and will be designed using the same types of batteries used in EVs.

Michael Leskinen, United’s vice president of corporate development, says he expects the “short-term regional air travel market to play a key role in the evolution of electric aircraft.”

In the meantime, United is partnering with Archer to accelerate zero-emission urban air mobility using Archer’s fully electric air taxi.

United Airlines to launch Chicago’s first electric air taxi

United Airlines and Archer revealed Thursday they would fly the electric air taxi from O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Vertiport Chicago, the largest vertical takeoff and landing facility in North America, as its next route.

Passengers will be able to travel on Archer’s Midnight aircraft from point to point in about 10 minutes, compared to what can take upwards of an hour or more during rush hour.

Archer’s Midnight electric air taxi is designed to fly four passengers, luggage, and a pilot for up to 100 miles but is optimized for more frequent 20-mile flights with 12 minutes to charge in between, which is the perfect amount of time to load passengers and cargo.

The eVTOL is powered by six battery packs and engineered for up to 150 mph speeds, and operates at “pricing that is competitive with ground-based ride share.”

Leskin says both Archer and United are committed to decarbonizing air travel, adding:

Once operational, we’re excited to offer our customers a more sustainable, convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation during their commutes to the airport.

To establish the necessary charging infrastructure for the eVTOL aircraft in and around Chicago, United, and Archer will work with ComEd.

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