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Air taxi startup Lilium eyes NYC as aviation scrutiny tightens

Grete Suarez

With aviation safety a hot topic and regulators looking to impose restrictions, Lilium, a Munich-based startup, is planning to launch an air taxi service in New York City and other big cities.

Despite the potential regulatory scrutiny, the company has big plans to launch its air taxi fleet commercially in 2025. The Tencent-backed startup is pricing a trip from Manhattan to JFK International airport at a competitive $70.

And a top executive tells Yahoo Finance the company intends to do things right.

“There are no shortcuts in aviation,” said Remo Gerber, Lilium’s chief commercial officer.

“So in order to achieve all of these things, in order to achieve the safety... we have to work through a very laborious process to go to the regulator,” he told YFi PM.

The Lilium Jet is a five-seat, fully electric plane that can lift off vertically and transition to horizontal flying. A trip will only take six minutes, as it boasts speeds of up to 62 miles per hour. Yet Gerber said it’s capable of flying to nearly 180 miles per hour.

“It's not just a New York downtown to JFK, but you can be in Hartford from downtown Manhattan in half an hour, or Philadelphia for that matter, whatever suits your taste,” Gerber added.

New York - Manhattan overview from the Lilium Jet, a five-seater fully electric air taxi. (Source: Lilium)

The startup’s move comes as three New York congressional Democrats are pushing a bill aimed at banning all “non-essential” helicopters from New York City skies, after a pilot attempted to make an emergency landing before crashing into a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan.

The Improving Helicopter Safety Act of 2019, spearheaded by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, is the result of frustrations with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Also looming in the background is Boeing’s ongoing trouble with its flagship 737 MAX plane, which has been grounded for much of the year in the wake of two fatal crashes.

Lilium Jet can fly from Manhattan to JFK International airport in six minutes. The startup says the jet is also capable of flying from Manhattan to Boston in an hour. (Source: Lilium)

Lilium recently posted video of its aircraft taking off successfully. Gerber said the jet is “seven to eight times quieter than a helicopter,” and people on the ground will not hear the aircraft flying overhead — thanks to its electric-powered engines compared to its gas turbine-powered counterparts.

He believes the jets are going to “be in a different safety paradigm that is actually magnitudes higher than that of helicopters generally seen.” Lilium is also convinced the company can help communities underserved by transportation.

“It opens up entirely new ways, how we can connect cities… and how you can connect different communities, how we can make people live and work in different places, and how we can optimize as well where we build new facilities or new areas to live,” said Gerber.

Grete Suarez is producer at Yahoo Finance for YFi PM and The Ticker. Follow her on Twitter: @GreteSuarez

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