Sunday, 10 January 2021

Blade and Ross Aviation to form strategic alliance

Blade and Ross Aviation to work together to mutually develop plans for a vertiport in Westchester and to offer Blade services at Ross Aviation locations in Massachusetts and California


BLADE Urban Air Mobility and Ross Aviation have entered into a strategic alliance to speed up the roll-out of urban air mobility services in the regions where Ross Aviation and Blade operations overlap. 

In December of 2020, Experience Investment Corporation agreed to merge with Blade, which will create the only publicly traded urban air mobility platform in the United States.

Ross Aviation has its headquarters in Denver and is dedicated to soaring higher in the flight hospitality services they provide. The firm currently operates 17 fixed base operations (FBOs) under the Ross Aviation, Rectrix Aviation, Alaska Aerofuel, Island Air and Great Circle Aviation Services banners. 

Blade is a technology-powered, global air mobility platform committed to reducing travel friction by providing cost-effective air transportation alternatives to some of the most congested ground routes in the U.S. and abroad.

Under this alliance, Blade plans to launch a pilot program offering daily helicopter flights between Ross Aviation’s West Terminal at the Westchester County Airport and Blade's heliport terminals in Manhattan. The idea is to provide a direct service, to tap into a rich market,  in 2019 commuters between Westchester/Connecticut and New York City made more than 40 million trips, with the majority driving alone in a car for around 2 hours in each direction. Blade expects the week day service to begin as early as March this year. 

The Blade flight will take between 10 and 15 minutes and the cost per flight per person is expected to be approximately $175. Although the company will be looking to offer commuter passes sometime after launch that will reduce the per seat cost to $95.

"Even with the expected increase of remote working post-pandemic, we believe that intermittent commuting of one to two times per week between the suburbs and New York City will be a reality. Congestion on tri-state area roads is now estimated at 90% of pre-pandemic levels. Given the combination of being near Uber Black pricing at $175, and the time savings of an approximately 12-minute flight, this service makes sense today and over the long term,” said Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade.

Additionally, Blade and Ross Aviation intend to work together to develop a plan to build a vertiport, located at the Airport, which will include the infrastructure required to hangar, charge, stage and deploy Electric Vertical Aircraft ("EVA" or Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing aircraft ("eVTOL") in aerospace parlance) as they become commercially available. Some of the conditions to the development of any such vertiport will include local and federal approvals including by the Airport, Westchester County, and the Federal Aviation Administration. While many in the industry expect EVA to be ready for flights as early as 2022 or 2023, Blade projects a more conservative timetable of 2025.

Brian Corbett, CEO of Ross Aviation said, "Ross Aviation is constantly looking to strengthen and expand our network. We view this alliance with Blade and our continued investment in innovative technology as a great opportunity to further enhance our flight hospitality network, enrich customers’ experiences, and strengthen our relationships with the communities we serve. For our existing jet customers, who value safety, time, and care above most else when traveling, our alliance with Blade will make getting to and from New York City even more efficient while attracting new customers to the Ross Aviation network."

Brandon Keene, CTO of Blade added, "Following the introduction of EVA into the aviation ecosystem, geographically-constrained areas like Manhattan will become much more accessible by air on a cost-effective basis. This pilot program, which uses conventional rotorcraft, will help us assess key use cases, drive schedule optimization, and determine flier needs for multi-modal connectivity. The potential for an EVA-ready vertiport at Westchester will not only catalyze the development of the industry but will enable meaningful reduction of carbon emissions and the noise footprint of short distance aviation in the region."

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