Vertical Aerospace, a global aerospace and technology company pioneering zero-emissions aviation, saw its VX4 electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft take off from the ground for the first time over the weekend.

It claims to become the first British company to start flight tests with a new aircraft in over 20 years with its full-scale, piloted prototype.

Engineers and flight technicians watched on as chief test pilot Justin Paines took to the controls for the aircraft’s maiden take-off which saw the eight sets of aerodynamic propellers lift the aircraft from the ground at hover-thrust, while tethered to the ground for safety.

Vertical, listed on the New York Stock Exchange and based in Bristol, is expected to continue its flight test programme for several months, reaching higher altitudes and speeds and demonstrating the transition from vertical to horizontal forward flight.

“This test represented the culmination of many months’ preparation by a huge team,” said Paines. “Being at the controls of the VX4 for the first time was an honour and a proud moment for us all.”

The company was founded in 2016 by Stephen Fitzpatrick, an established entrepreneur best known as the founder of the Ovo Group, a leading energy and technology group and Europe’s largest independent energy retailer.

Fitzpatrick said: “This moment represents a small step for Vertical Aerospace, but it’s a giant leap forward for British aviation. 

“For more than 100 years the UK has been a global leader in aviation and today, in the 21st Century, Britain is leading the world in the development of zero carbon aircraft.”

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The company, unlike many of its competitors, decided to conduct its first flight tests with a pilot on board to prove it could meet the most stringent safety standards. To do this, Vertical Aerospace received regulatory approval in the form of a ‘Permit to Fly’ from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Vertical’s aim is to certify the VX4 by 2025. It is hoped the aircraft will carry a pilot and four passengers and is expected to have a range of up to 100 miles with the ability to cruise at speeds of around 150 miles per hour, with a top speed of 200 miles per hour.

The company claims to have received more than 1,400 conditional pre-orders from some of the world’s leading airlines, operators, lessors and tourist groups including Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Japan Airlines and Air Asia. 

Vertical’s test programme is also supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute, a UK government-industry programme designed to promote transformative technology in air transport.

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