Electric Air Taxi Demonstrated in NYC Ahead of 2025 Launch

Electric Air Taxi Demonstrated in NYC Ahead of 2025 Launch
A Joby Aviation Air Taxi outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ahead of their listing in Manhattan, New York, on Aug. 11, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)
Katabella Roberts

Electric aircraft maker Joby Aviation successfully performed its first demonstration flight in New York City on Nov. 12, marking the first ever electric air taxi flight in the city, the company announced.

The Santa Cruz, California-headquartered company flew its four-passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi, piloted by James “Buddy” Denham from Downtown Heliport (KJRB) in Manhattan to the skies above New York City, Joby Aviation said in a press release.

The sortie lasted roughly six minutes and followed several days of preparation flights at the HHI Heliport in Kearny, New Jersey, although the company noted it has also flown more than 30,000 miles with its full-scale prototype eVTOL aircraft since 2017.

Sunday’s demonstration flight ceremony was attended by New York Mayor Eric Adams and other city officials, who announced plans to “electrify” the heliport, making it the first in the world to have infrastructure that supports electric flights.

Mr. Adams said the overhauling of the heliport is part of his “working people’s tour” aimed at creating more jobs and bolstering New York City’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today, we are taking sustainability to the sky and our streets, and New Yorkers can feel the electricity in the air in our city as we electrify our heliport infrastructure,” said Mr. Adams.

The Democrat said the Downtown Heliport, once made to support electric-powered aircraft flights, will be a “public asset” for New Yorkers and serve as a “hub for sustainable transportation and local deliveries.”

“We will not only put New York City at the cutting edge of sustainable flight technology while addressing a persistent quality-of-life issue with helicopter noise, but also get trucks off the road and make our streets safer,” Mr. Adams said.

Air Taxis Still Awaiting Certification

Joby Aviation went public in 2021 and received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for test flights of its electric air taxi in June after benefiting from a $100 million investment from South Korea’s SK Telecom.

The aircraft maker plans to utilize a ridesharing service business model similar to Uber, transporting a pilot and four passengers at speeds of up to 200 mph with a maximum range of 100 miles on a single charge, initially to and from airports.

It has not yet specified how much such a trip will cost but expects to begin operating by 2025.

According to the company, the rapid, back-to-back flights will be fast and quiet with zero operating emissions.

Delta Air Lines has invested $60 million in Joby Aviation eVTOL aircraft to ferry passengers to the airport.

Joby previously announced that through that partnership, it expects New York to be one of its early launch markets, following final certification from the FAA, although the electric aircraft maker is still in the third of five stages of certification.

New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks at a press conference during his trip to Ecuador, on Oct. 6, 2023. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images)
New York Mayor Eric Adams speaks at a press conference during his trip to Ecuador, on Oct. 6, 2023. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images)

Concerns Over Safety, Privacy

On Sunday, company officials said that the back-to-back flights will cover 99 percent of all trips taken today across New York City’s five boroughs.

While traveling from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport can take more than an hour by car, the company expects the trip to take just seven minutes by air.

However, experts have raised concerns regarding the safety of air taxis, as well as the possibility of noise pollution and privacy issues, particularly as the flights will be traveling over urban areas.

In November, Boeing Chief Strategy Officer Marc Allen urged regulators to ensure air taxis comply with the same strict safety standards as commercial jets and not those of smaller planes, in order to ensure safety.

“We have to unify around the importance of bringing all advanced air mobility vehicles and operating systems to market with airliner levels of safety, with air transport levels of safety, with commercial levels of safety,” Mr. Allen said during an address at the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Still, the company has been forging ahead with production, and in June celebrated the first aircraft to roll off its pilot manufacturing plant in Marina, California.

In September, the firm also delivered the first ever electric air taxi to the U.S. Air Force for on-base operational testing as part of its $131 million contract with the Department of Defense.

During Sunday’s demonstration, JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby Aviation, praised New York for “demonstrating global leadership in the adoption of electric air travel,” adding that the new heliport will make “emissions-free flight an affordable, everyday reality for New Yorkers.”

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