Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce are among a clutch of firms backing a £2.8bn British project to build up to 1,000 electric vertical takeoff planes.
Vertical Aerospace, the brainchild of Ovo energy founder Stephen Fitzpatrick, is to float in the US by merging with a blank-cheque company, it was announced overnight.
American Airlines and leasing firm Avolon have pre-ordered aircraft with Virgin Atlantic agreeing to a pre-order option. Total orders are valued at $4bn (£2.8bn).
Vertical’s planes are expected to reach speeds of more than 200mph, be “near silent” and have zero emissions.
Other investors include a venture capital firm owned by Microsoft. Mr Fitzpatrick will remain Vertical’s largest shareholder. He said: “The UK is already a global leader in aerospace innovation and we believe Vertical Aerospace will be the British engineering champion to drive the aviation industry forward.”
British entrepreneur Hugh Osmond is chairman of Broadstone, the special purpose acquisition vehicle into which Vertical will merge. He said: “Transportation is one of the next big sectors of the global economy to be disrupted at scale. Vertical has a clear commercial plan to challenge short-haul air travel, and to create new markets where neither cars nor public transport can cope with demand.