Jet Linx joins Blade to enter the VTOL market

By Doug Gollan, April 13, 2021

Jet Linx is following Wheels Up and Flexjet into the vertical take-off and landing segment through an agreement with Blade

Jet Linx Aviation becomes the third of the country’s five largest for-hire private aircraft operators to announce this year it is entering the VTOL – vertical take-off and landing – space.

The move comes as part of an agreement with Blade. The urban mobility provider is securing up to 20 Beta Technologies Electric Vertical Aircraft for delivery in 2024.

According to the announcement, “Blade has also entered into an arrangement with Jet Linx, a leading U.S. aircraft operator supported by equity capital from RedBird Capital Partners relating to the purchase of EVAs from Beta. The arrangement enables Jet Linx to own and operate EVA for Blade flights, subject to entering into definitive agreements.”

RedBird is a strategic investor in both BETA and Blade.

Blade will support EVA purchases by Jet Linx and other Blade operators through minimum flight hour guarantees.

Omaha-based Jet Linx currently offers aircraft management and sells jet cards from 19 bases across the U.S. It recently expanded into top private jet airports in major markets. They include Boston Hanscomb Field, Chicago Executive, Denver Centennial, Washington Dulles, and New York Teterboro. Additional plans are to add South Florida and Southern California markets where helicopter travel plays a growing role.

Wheels Up and Flexjet helicopter strategies

The announcement made by Blade follows an agreement on Friday between Wheels Up and Textron Bell. Wheels Up said it would begin offering helicopter service by the end of the year.

In February, Directional Aviation’s said its OneSky Flight unit had purchased Associated Aircraft Group from Lockheed Martin. As it is known, AAG sells fractional shares and jet cards on a fleet of operated helicopters in the northeast.

OneSky includes Flexjet, the second-largest fractional share operator behind NetJets and Sentient Jet, a major seller of jet cards. Its FXAIR unit is an on-demand charter broker. It also owns U.K.-based charter and jet card broker PrivateFly. Flexjet recently launched shared ownership, leases, and jet cards in Europe.

Directional has yet to comment on any expansion plans for its helicopter service. However, its chairman Kenn Ricci separately led the formation of a SPAC, which has raised $200 million targeting next-generation aviation such as VTOL aircraft.

Blade VTOL routes

Blade’s said its asset-light business model leverages demand creation and third-party financing relationships to facilitate the purchase of Beta’s ALIA Electric Vertical Aircraft to be used by its network of operators that fulfill flights for its customers.

The agreement includes a commitment for Blade operators or third-party financing sources who will enter into leasing arrangements with operators to purchase Beta’s first passenger-configured EVAs, scheduled for delivery beginning in late 2024.

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 CEO Rob Wiesenthal said, “Blade is laser-focused on its transition from conventional rotorcraft to Electric Vertical Aircraft. 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.”

He continued, “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.”

BETA’s ALIA Electric Vertical Aircraft

UPS for cargo, United Therapeutics for organ movements, and the U.S. Air Force have previously placed orders for the Beta VTOL.

The ALIA EVA features zero operational emissions. According to BETA, ALIA can fly six people 250 nautical miles on a single charge, and the aircraft is more than 10 times quieter than a helicopter.

Blade recently announced it would become a public company through a SPAC merger with Experience Investment Corp. (NASDAQ: EXPC). The merger’s closing is subject to approval by the stockholders of both Blade and Experience Investment Corp. Blade and Beta’s agreement relating to ALIA EVAs’ purchase is conditioned on the completion of the merger.

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