Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) start-up Vertical Aviation (MDB, San Antonio Int'l) has secured two major, albeit tentative, orders; from American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) for up to 250 VA-X4 aircraft and from lessor Avolon for up to 500 units, some of which have been earmarked for Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow).

The commitments could potentially be worth up to USD1 billion and USD2 billion respectively, although they both remain subject to undisclosed criteria before they can be finalised.

American Airlines said it would also invest USD25 million in Vertical Aviation through a private-investment-in-public-equity (PIPE) transaction. The carrier said its tentative commitment also includes options for 100 more VA-X4s but did not disclose an expected delivery or service entry timeline.

"Emerging technologies are critical in the race to reduce carbon emissions and we are excited to partner with Vertical to develop the next generation of electric aircraft,” Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr said.

In turn, Avolon, which will potentially order the aircraft through its new unit Avolon-e, said that it expects deliveries to commence by the end of 2024. The lessor underlined it would be the XA-V4's global launch customer and that its commitment was split into a first batch of aircraft worth USD1.25 billion (which should translate to around 315 units) and then a subsequent batch of optioned aircraft valued at USD750 million (around 185 units). However, even the first batch has not yet been firmed and remains subject "to appropriate operating, delivery and business requirements being met".

At least some of Avolon's XA-V4s could be delivered to Virgin Atlantic, which is tentatively due to become the type's European launch operator.

"We pride ourselves on building enduring strategic partnerships and are thrilled to be working alongside Vertical in its mission to bring eVTOL travel to the UK," Chief Executive Shai Weiss said.

The carrier did not provide any details concerning the number of aircraft it would look to lease and the expected delivery timeline but said it was exploring using them for short-haul shuttles into its main hubs, such as London Gatwick, London Heathrow, and Manchester Int'l.

The XA-V4 is set to carry up to 4 passengers in addition to a pilot. It will be fully electric-powered and capable of travelling at over 200 miles per hour (322 kilometres per hour) with a range exceeding 100 miles (161 kilometres).

The newly announced commitments are the first announced deals between Vertical Aviation and potential customers, although the start-up had already secured funding from other corporate giants, including Microsoft and Honeywell.

The commitments join the rapidly expanding list of eVTOL aircraft commitments, although as of now, all announcements made are only tentative and subject to multiple conditions. No eVTOL aircraft has yet been certified.

The emerging technology has, nonetheless, attracted interest from both passenger and cargo airlines. Recently, UPS Flight Forward signed for up to 150 piloted eVTOLs from Vermont-based Beta Technologies, while United Airlines has invested in Archer Aviation and tentatively ordered up to 200 of its aircraft. A range of other carriers, including British Airways, Swiftair Cargo (Canada), and Finnair, have had their eyes on conventional regional aircraft powered by either electric or hydrogen engines.