In the latest sign of growing interest in the flying taxi sector, United Airlines and air mobility startup Archer Aviation have announced an upcoming service for hops between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport.
The service will offer a sustainable, low-noise, and cost-competitive alternative to ground transportation for folks traveling to and from the airport, United and Archer said in a release.
Starting in 2025, Archer’s electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) Midnight aircraft will zip between downtown’s Vertiport Chicago and O’Hare in a mere 10 minutes — far quicker than the hour or so that it can take in rush-hour traffic, or the 75 minutes that it takes by train.
Once the initial route has been established, branch routes will be added that connect surrounding communities, opening up the flying taxi service to even more people.
Powered by six battery packs linked to electric engines, Archer’s Midnight aircraft seats a pilot and up to four passengers. Its 12 sets of propellers enable it to reach speeds of 150 mph and travel up to 100 miles in a single flight, though it’s optimized for trips of between 20 and 50 miles.
“Both Archer and United are committed to decarbonizing air travel and leveraging innovative technologies to deliver on the promise of the electrification of the aviation industry,” said United executive Michael Leskinen. “Once operational, we’re excited to offer our customers a more sustainable, convenient, and cost-effective mode of transportation during their commutes to the airport.”
Adam Goldstein, Archer’s founder and CEO, said his team was “thrilled” with the plan and “looking forward to working with state and city leaders to bring an innovative transportation solution to the city of Chicago and its surrounding communities.”
Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot is delighted with the plan, too, saying: “This exciting new technology will further decarbonize our means of transportation, taking us another step forward in our fight against climate change. I’m pleased that Chicago residents will be among the first in the nation to experience this innovative, convenient form of travel.”
California-based Archer announced last year that it will launch a similar service with United for hops between Newark Liberty International Airport and the Downtown Manhattan Heliport eight miles away.
United revealed a plan two years ago to purchase 200 eVOTL Archer-made aircraft for deployment across the U.S. by 2026. United’s order was part of a $1 billion investment in Archer to help with the development of the aircraft as the carrier seeks to embrace cleaner, more efficient modes of transportation.
Archer isn’t the only firm developing small eVTOL aircraft, with a slew of competitors — Toyota-backed Joby Aviation among them — also hoping to enter a sector that’s expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.
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- Watch first footage of Joby’s all-electric VTOL aircraft in flight
- Rolls-Royce wants to put you in a flying taxi come the early 2020s
- Electric ‘flying taxi’ with ‘numerous propellers’ given boost by Toyota