Blade Urban Air Mobility, Inc. (“Blade” or the “Company”), a technology-powered urban air mobility platform, today announced a binding agreement to secure up to 20 BETA Technologies (“BETA”) ALIA Electric Vertical Aircraft (“EVA”) for purchase by its network of operators, subject to certain conditions.
The agreement includes a commitment for Blade operators, or third-party financing sources who will enter into leasing arrangements with operators, to purchase up to 20 of BETA’s first passenger-configured EVAs, scheduled for delivery beginning in late 2024, ahead of the Company’s 2025 target for its launch of EVA services. Blade intends to deploy these initial BETA EVAs on routes between its network of dedicated terminals in the Northeast, where BETA has agreed to provide and install charging infrastructure at certain key locations.
Blade has also entered into an arrangement with Jet Linx Aviation, a US aircraft operator supported by equity capital from RedBird Capital Partners, relating to the purchase of EVAs from BETA. RedBird is also a strategic investor in both BETA and Blade. The arrangement enables Jet Linx to own and operate EVA for Blade flights, subject to entering into definitive agreements. The Company will support EVA purchases by Jet Linx and other Blade operators through minimum flight hour guarantees.
“Blade is laser-focused on its transition from conventional rotorcraft to Electric Vertical Aircraft,” Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal said. “The ALIA’s extremely low sound footprint, coupled with its zero emissions design, will enable us to reduce the noise and environmental impact to the communities surrounding the existing heliport and airport infrastructure we currently use. ALIA is a full-scale EVA flying in piloted configuration almost every day. The team’s progress is formidable. BETA’s scheduled delivery beginning in 2024 is ahead of our current projected deployment of EVA in 2025. The transaction, consistent with our asset-light business model, allows us to leverage our significant flight volumes and third-party financing relationships to enable the purchase of BETA aircraft by our operator partners.”
Wiesenthal continued, “We have evaluated the BETA aircraft and determined that, given its six-person capacity, significant range and cold weather capabilities, it is ideal for key Northeast mission profiles and we believe it has a lower risk path to certification. At the same time, we remain focused on our work with other leading aerospace manufacturers, continuing our strategy of deploying the most appropriate EVA model for each of our specific routes.”
In addition to Blade, BETA’s first passenger air mobility partner, a broad set of global enterprises have already selected the ALIA aircraft for key aerospace markets, including UPS (cargo), United Therapeutics (organ movements) and the U.S. Air Force (defense).
“Blade is flying people in and out of cities every day, and we’re excited to partner with the leader in UAM to create a new paradigm in passenger aviation,” said Kyle Clark, BETA’s founder and CEO. “BETA is a pragmatic company building pragmatic aircraft. It’s clear that the simplicity of our approach, strength of our technology, consistent progress against our timelines as well as the expertise of our team resonates with the best operators in the world. We are extremely excited to partner with BLADE and serve the passenger mission.”
The ALIA EVA includes a combination of elements they say creates a smooth, quiet flying experience, with applications for moving both people and cargo, all while producing zero operational emissions. According to BETA, ALIA can fly six people 250 nautical miles on a single charge and the aircraft is more than 10x quieter than a helicopter, imperceptible over normal urban noise and quieter than cars on a highway.
As part of the agreement, BETA has committed that ALIA will meet the necessary specifications required to operate on Blade’s key routes prior to delivery. Purchases of ALIA EVA are conditioned on FAA type certification of the aircraft prior to the scheduled delivery date. Blade has committed to facilitate the purchase of at least five and up to 20 aircraft by its network of operators or third parties that will lease the aircraft to Blade operators.
Blade recently announced it would become a public company through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, Experience Investment Corp. Closing of the merger is subject to approval by the stockholders of both Blade and Experience Investment Corp. and the satisfaction or waiver of certain other conditions. The agreement between Blade and BETA relating to the purchase of ALIA EVAs is conditioned on completion of the merger.