The German electric aircraft developer Lilium is partnering with the real estate developer Tavistock to build a hub in Orlando for an inter-city transportation network in the tourist mecca of Florida that it intends to launch in 2025, the first concrete plans yet announced by any of the scores of companies aiming to establish air taxi services as to where their vehicles will get off the ground in the United States.
Tavistock, owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis, will build a 56,000-square-foot “vertiport” with eight landing bays at its Lake Nona development next to the Orlando airport, Florida’s busiest.
Lilium aims to be an option for the 50 million travelers who pass through the Orlando airport every year in normal times to travel onward to Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and between them. Remo Gerber, Lilium’s chief commercial officer, says its aircraft, which the startup says will be able to carry four passengers and a pilot 186 miles (300 km) at a speed of 186 miles per hour, will cut travel time from Orlando to Tampa to 30 minutes compared to 1.5 to 2 hours by car.
“We believe at the beginning it’s going to be city to city where you create the most customer benefit,” says Gerber, rather than routes inside of cities.
Since most customers will need to sandwich their air taxi ride between train, car, or bus trips to cover the first and last miles, only on longer journeys will the greater speed of the air leg balance out the transfer time and higher cost – Gerber says Lilium generally sees that tipping point at trips greater than 45 minutes, or 13 to 14 miles.