Air taxis to the Paris Olympics: Volocopter boss: “We’re already on our way”

DThe clock is ticking: Volocopter wants to become the first electric air taxi operator to begin commercial flights in time for the Summer Olympics in Paris in July and August 2024. The schedule is ambitious as the launch at Bruchsal near Karlsruhe does not await final approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the two-seat vertical take-off and landing aircraft called Volocity shortly before in the second quarter. And this is far from the only remaining construction site. Volocopter is also struggling with political obstacles in Paris.

A few days ago, Dan Lehrt, deputy to socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo, spoke of “a completely useless and extremely polluting ploy for a few ultra-privileged people in a hurry.” But harsh criticism came not only from the political left, but also from some centrists and right-wing Republicans in urban and suburban communities. In addition to the impact on the environment, residents and safety, it is also about the investment costs that Volocopter’s partners, Paris airport operator ADP, the Ile-de-France metropolitan region and the country, are putting into the project.

Good contacts at the Elysee Palace

For Dirk Hock, former Airbus arms chief and acting managing director of Volocopter since September 2022, there is a lot going on in the debate. Individual people argued without facts and exploited the project for political purposes. The Republican mayor of the 15th arrondissement of Paris, where Volocopter wants to take off from the existing helipad of Issy-les-Moulineaux, simply wants to use the attractive area for construction projects, and criticism from the suburbs about Versailles is of no consequence. makes sense, considering that much louder helicopters operate there for tourism purposes.

“If you look at France, it’s not very surprising,” Hoke tells FAZ. They knew these milestones would come, which also represent a learning process for the startup founded in 2011. Hawk emphasizes: “At the end of the day, this is not an entirely unusual situation, but when introducing new technologies, we have always seen that some people are not very open.” initial resistance has historically been the rule. I believe it is only a matter of time before electric air taxis become widespread. With megacities like Paris increasingly reaching their limits in terms of transport policy, the market potential for new modes of transport is clear.

Despite all the prophecies of the death of Parisian politics, Volocopter’s boss makes it clear: “The project continues.” approve take-off and landing sites, since in the north of Paris there will be a connection from the large Charles de Gaulle airport to the smaller Le Bourget airport, in the city center from the Austerlitz train station on the Seine to Issy-les-Moulineaux in the southwest, and from there to Saint-Cyr l’Ecole near Versailles and finally two sightseeing flights: once around Le Bourget and once around Issy-les-Moulineaux.

After Paris, Rome is on the agenda

In fact, Volocopter has an important lawyer in the French Transport Minister Clément Beaune, and also maintains good contacts at the Elysee Palace. There they will heed the warning of environmental body Autorité environnementale in a recent statement about the need for greater attention, in particular to noise levels. The same applies to the negative vote subsequently cast by members of the Paris city council, as well as the result of the public hearings that ended in early December. Hawk says he has received no indication that government support is crumbling – and he emphasizes that the environmental agency’s statement, the city council vote and the public hearing all relate to the launch and the planned launch on the Seine – Station Landing Pad Austerlitz is by no means the project as a whole.

What is now crucial for Volocopter’s Olympic adventure is whether EASA certification will arrive on time. Without them, only private flights would be allowed in Paris during the summer. The Volocopter boss tries to act confident. “We’re doing well,” he says. “You won’t find anyone who goes through all these steps.” After Paris, Rome is on the agenda.

“We’re trying to get certified next summer,” says Hock. However, he admits that this will not be easy as all suppliers will have to submit all evidence to EASA on time. In general, this is not an easy task, especially when it comes to key electric drive components and batteries. “If it were so commonplace, established companies would already have certified the devices,” says Hock, noting that players such as Airbus also have plans for electric air taxis.

Source: Frantfurter Allgemeine

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