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DFW Signs Agreement With Electric Air Taxi Company

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has entered into an agreement with California-based eVTOL company Overair to assess the feasibility of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft within airport operations.

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(TNS) — DFW International Airport is laying the groundwork for air taxis in the future with an agreement with California-based eVTOL company Overair.

In an announcement made Thursday, DFW Airport and Overair have a “memorandum of understanding” to take a look at the future of eVTOL, electric vertical takeoff and landing, aircraft and its potential operations within Dallas-Fort Worth. The new partnership includes a “feasibility assessment” for the potential for passenger eVTOL operations in North Texas.

Valerie Manning, chief commercial officer of Overair said D-FW was the ideal partner to start the partnership.

“It was amazing how much pull there was and interest from the North Texas stakeholders, and DFW in particular was like, ‘We definitely see this as the future,’” Manning said. “‘We want to be part of it.’”

The agreement with Overair creates a joint working group to explore the policies and infrastructure DFW Airport will need to implement the program in the future. It also looks at operations, like approach, landing, taxiing, charging, loading and unloading of passengers, takeoff, departure and safety.

The company is also partnering with the city of Arlington to launch operations at Arlington Municipal Airport.

However, Manning said this will take a few years to launch fully. She said there are a lot of questions in the air like training requirements for pilots and other regulations with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Air taxis (have) a human pilot and that (change) will happen quick,” said Ross Perot Jr., who leads one of the country’s largest independent property portfolios last month. “Air taxis with no pilot, our FAA will take their time, because safety is paramount for our FAA.”

eVTOLs, also called air taxis, are a fairly newer electric technology being tested around the world. The aircraft takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter and flies forward like a traditional aircraft. It’s recently been tested by a company called Joby Aviation Inc. this month at New York’s Downtown Heliport in Manhattan. The company performed an exhibition flight in New York City on Nov. 12.

Overair is known for the Butterfly, an eVTOL that accommodates a pilot, five passengers and luggage. Its cabin, according to Overair, can allow for charter, medical transport and cargo, as well. It can fly 100 miles and has a maximum speed of 200 mph.

The technology includes speed tilt rotors, large blades that spin slowly and match the required thrust in different modes of flying, hover, transition and cruise. It also has individual blade control, overcoming the physical limits of a traditional aircraft, which could reduce maintenance time.

At DFW Airport’s State of the Airport luncheon in October, CEO Sean Donohue told attendees that the second busiest airport in the world will offer a fully automated passenger experience with urban air mobility, like electric air taxis, by the 2040s.

Paul Puopolo, executive vice president of innovation at DFW Airport said the partnership reiterates the airport’s focus on the future of mobility to look to where the market is heading.

“As we look at future construction, we have to parallel that with the airspace and the routes and the volume and that’s why these collaborations are so important because you have to do that a couple of years ahead of where you think the market might go so that you’re prepared,” Puopolo said.

The airport will use this collaboration to evaluate where eVTOLs might have a place to operate and as a test run on what the future could look like. Getting the aircraft certified by the Federal Aviation Administration is the next step, he said, but DFW Airport is optimistic that could happen in 2025 or 2026.

And it’s not just DFW Airport looking at the future. Pittsburgh International Airport is considering sites for a vertiport in its $1.4 billion terminal modernization program. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is also looking to the future of aircraft as it rebuilds its terminal.

Overair was spun out of Karem Aircraft in 2020 and is based in Santa Ana, Calif. It announced the design of the Butterfly in 2021. The company has partnerships with Hanwha Systems and Bristow Group.

©2023 The Dallas Morning News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.