The planned global introduction of air taxi services next year during the Paris Summer Olympics already risks being grounded, after city authorities from across party lines joined up this week to lavishly dump on what elsewhere in France and the world has been the tech’s much-ballyhooed debut.
National and regional officials in France have been bustling to complete aerial and ground infrastructure preparations in time to roll out the world’s first air taxi operations next summer, when all eyes will already be on the Paris-hosted Summer Olympic Games. But elected officials used municipal meetings this week to vent their long-simmering anger at the push to get next generation aircraft into the city’s skies – and, if possible, keep it from happening altogether.
One of those numerous critics, Dan Lert, derided what has generally been hailed as the sustainable, emissions-free, affordable future of public transportation as “a useless, polluting gadget (to be) reserved for the ultra-privileged.”
And he’s an Ecologist.
Lert, meanwhile, was joined by a large majority of officials from across the political spectrum who spoke at the regularly held Council of Paris meeting to blast away at the Volocopter air taxis scheduled to operate around and over city during and after the Summer Olympics.
The reasons for the shared opposition were diverse. Officials to the left argued that air taxis – which are expected to cost at least €110 ($120) per ride – are being prepared as gifts to rich people wanting to avoid heavy Paris car traffic during the Olympics, and gain a few minutes by using what will be fairly short aerial routes.
Others said the additional noise created by the flights will ruin the steadily eroding quality of life of Parisians, and create safety risk of still developing air taxi tech dropping from what (they continued) were already crowded city skies.
“To save few minutes for a handful of affluent people ignorant and disdaining of the global warming emergency, we’d be polluting the atmosphere, destroying the sonar environment,” warned Socialist Party official Florian Sitbon.
Conservative municipal counsellor Claire de Clermont-Tonnerre also leveled environmental criticism at the plan to operate air taxis both during the Olympics and through the end of 2024 – creating an estimated total of around 1,900 flights.
“The approximately 190 kWH consumption these flying machines consume per 100 kilometers is two to three times higher than an internal combustion engine car transporting a single passenger,” de Clermont-Tonnerre said – possibly disgusted that air taxis aren’t power by the same “clean” nuclear tech most of France is.
“This is a new form (of transportation) we have absolutely no need of… just as we experienced with rental e-scooters,” she urged.
So are Paris air taxis already fini just seven months before they’re scheduled to begin operation?
Perhaps. Yet it’s worth noting a considerable portion of the bombast of Paris officials is rooted in the wider nation’s pronounced disgust of the national leadership. Its litany of aloof and heavy-handed actions includes having joined authorities running the capital’s wider region to force the air taxi plan through, with little real consultation. Politics, therefore, is a big motivator in the current aerial counter-offensive.
In addition to that, meanwhile, opponents are seeking to capitalize on a recent report by the independent Autorité environnementale française that aired serious reserves about air taxi services over central Paris. Detractors are also looking to influence opinions expressed in an ongoing public consultation about introducing the craft, which is set to wrap up December 8.
But given the enormous investment already sunk into the plan – and the windfall of pride and prestige to be had at being the first nation to initiate air taxis – it’s likely France’s government will either negotiate or (per its habit) steamroll its Olympics introduction of services into being, no matter the degree of opposition.
If so, the far more important broader question for the sector will become whether that political force-feeding – along with any potential down-sides created by electric aircraft operation – winds up sufficiently souring Paris and the rest of France on the emerging air taxi option, and thus delaying its veritable adoption for months or even years after the Olympic Games and its hoopla have packed up and gone.
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