The British eVTOL start-up Vertical Aerospace announces pre-orders for a total of 1,000 of its electric aerial taxis. In this context, the company also announces that it is seeking an IPO via SPAC and has received commitments from Microsoft, American Airlines, Avolon, Honeywell and Rolls-Royce.
The investments and pre-orders are directly related to the planned merger between Vertical Aerospace and SPAC firm Broadstone Acquisition Corp. for the purpose of the eVTOL specialist’s quick debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Following the completion of the transaction, which is expected in the second half of the year, the combined company will trade under the ticker symbol “EVTL”. The IPO will be accompanied by a capital increase in the form of a PIPE (“Private Investment in Public Equity”), in the course of which the five above-mentioned investors, among others, will inject funds in an undisclosed amount.
Vertical Aerospace states that it expects to receive an equity value of approximately 1.84 billion US dollars and gross proceeds of approximately 394 million US dollars from the merger. The funds are to be used primarily to accelerate the development, production and certification of the VA-X4 electric vertical take-off aircraft. Three customers have already reserved copies of the aircraft, subject to the achievement of certain goals and other conditions. Specifically, Avolon wants to pre-order up to 310 of the e-taxis, with an option for another 190. American Airlines has agreed to take delivery of 250, with an option for 100 more. And Virgin Atlantic secures a purchase option on up to 150 of the aircraft. Vertical Aerospace estimates the value of the pre-orders at up to 4 billion US dollars.
The investments are also accompanied by partnerships to build the complete ecosystem of eVTOL operations. For example, American Airlines and Vertical plan to cooperate in the development of passenger operations and infrastructure in the US. Another example: Virgin Atlantic is seeking a joint venture with the British to develop the launch of an eVTOL short-haul network under the Virgin Atlantic brand in the UK. Vertical’s other partners include GKN and Solvay.
Vertical Aerospace aims to enable commercial operation of the VA-X4 by 2024. On the way there, the British company is aiming for certification by EASA for the vertical take-off aircraft – according to “the same standards as large commercial aircraft”. The company hardly gives any details about the aircraft itself in its announcement. It merely states that the VA-X4 can reach speeds of over 200 mph (about 320 km/h) and “has a low cost per passenger mile”.
The Bristol-based start-up, launched in 2016, was founded by Stephen Fitzpatrick, chief executive of Ovo Energy and former owner of Formula One racing team Manor Racing. Fitzpatrick remains the largest shareholder after the SPAC deal. In an older report from 2018, the executive cited the goal of offering short-haul flights, with multiple passengers carried by a pilot in a vertical take-off. Unlike most of its counterparts, which have a similar goal but have relied on autonomous electric aircraft from the outset, Vertical Aerospace believes it can sidestep regulatory and safety issues by piloting the vertical take-offs on board. However, it is not clear from the current announcement whether this is still the credo.
There, Stephen Fitzpatrick is quoted rather with general words: “Today’s announcement brings together some of the largest and most respected technology and aeronautical businesses in the world and together we can achieve our aim of making the VA-X4 the first zero-carbon aircraft that most people will fly on.”