- By 2030, electric vertical and takeoff landing (eVTOL) and other passenger-carrying advanced air mobility aircraft could offer many more flights per day than the largest airlines, according to a McKinsey & Company analysis.
- Flights will average just 18 minutes, carrying one to six passengers, but frequent takeoffs and landings will require cities, suburbs and retail districts to accommodate new vertiport infrastructure.
- “Flying taxis are going to happen,” said Benedikt Kloss, an associate partner in McKinsey’s Frankfurt office, in a company video. “The question for me at the moment is when it’s going to happen — not if.”
American Airlines and United Airlines placed orders for eVTOL aircraft from developers that have yet to fly or certify production aircraft. UAL and Archer Aviation announced planned routes in New York City and Chicago, while Delta Air Lines is an investor in rival Joby Aviation. Other advanced air mobility developers include U.K.-based Vertical Aerospace, Odys Aviation, Lillium and Germany’s Volocopter.
McKinsey estimates that just one advanced air mobility operator could operate 20,000 flights a day in 2030. By comparison, Southwest Airlines, the second-largest carrier in the U.S., averaged roughly 2,900 domestic flights a day in 2021.
Most eVTOL aircraft would fly short routes between downtowns and nearby airports or cities. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, these electrically-powered aircraft promise to provide more efficient, sustainable and equitable transportation.
But McKinsey warned, “If leaders want to scale the [advanced air mobility] market and not face the limits seen with today’s helicopter transport, they must establish many more ports, as well as more routes among them.”
The consulting firm estimates that a large, dense, high-income city, such as New York or London, would need 85 to 100 takeoff and landing pads, which could be distributed among 20 to 30 vertiports. Medium-size cities such as Atlanta, Dallas or Denver might require 10 to 18 sites with up to 65 total pads.
Last September, the FAA released vertiport design standards that specify safe dimensions for takeoff and landing areas as well as departure and approach paths; guidelines for markings and lighting to aid pilots; and standards for electric charging infrastructure.
In a March interview, Archer Aviation CEO Adam Goldstein described how aircraft would take off from a downtown heliport, fly 10 or 15 minutes to a major airport, fly back and do it all again within the span of an hour. “We’ll start slow. We’ll put tens of planes out there. We’ll go to a bunch of different cities. We’ll start to show that this can work,” he said.
Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation both anticipate commercial flights beginning in 2025. “I think this is a mode of transportation that will eventually become quite frequently used,” said McKinsey partner Robin Riedel in a company video.