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American Airlines Group Inc. plans to invest $25 million in Vertical Aerospace Group Ltd., a U.K.-based electric aircraft startup. The world’s largest carrier by traffic said it would buy as many as 250 of Vertical’s planned flying taxis which are electric and take off and land vertically like helicopters, holding for passengers and one pilot. Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 is slated to fly distances of more than 100 miles offering intra-city urban air mobility services and an alternative to driving. Sustainability is also a key focus in American’s order as the VA-X4 is slated to be a carbon-zero aircraft powered by batteries instead of jet fuel. “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,” Derek Kerr, American’s chief financial officer, said in a statement.
“If you think about transportation strategically this is the next big frontier,” Domhnal Slattery, chief executive of Avolon, the world’s third-largest aircraft leasing company, told media in an interview. Aviation companies are under mounting pressure from investors to help decarbonize the sector and boost their environmental score. Europe’s top regulator said last month the region could see the first flying taxis enter service as early as 2024. Vertical plans is expected to conduct the first test flight of the VA-X4 aircraft later this year.