Sikorsky eyes urban air mobility with Blade deal
Sikorsky’s New York based charter subsidiary AAG has struck a deal with helicopter-booking platform Blade to provide and operate an S76C+ on Blade’s service.
Many of Sikorsky’s contemporaries – including Bell and Airbus – are investing heavily in the emerging urban air-mobility market, helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky is using Blade’s platform as a chance to dip its toe into the sector.
AAG will join Blade’s base of operators to provide helicopter charter flights in the New York City Metro area.
One important part of the deal gives Blade access to AAG’s full fleet of Sikorsky helicopters – the largest in the Northeast US. The agreement will also allow AAG to decide how best to leverage Blade’s consumer, cockpit and operator technology platform.
Sikorsky vice president, commercial systems and services, Audrey Brady said: “As a leader in vertical flight, Sikorsky is always looking to explore new market opportunities. Vertical lift becomes increasingly important as cities grow, and this relationship allows us to gain critical insights to emerging needs in that space.”
Sikorsky has been developing autonomous technology which the company thinks will prove useful for the emerging air-taxi market. When Helicopter Investor asked why Sikorsky decided to invest in urban air mobility, Brady explained:
“Sikorsky has been watching the development of urban air mobility closely, and we believe that the technology we’re developing will be applicable in many ways to the market as it evolves from today’s best practices. Our advances in technology such as autonomy and health and usage monitoring will be key, and we look forward to continuing to add our perspective to emerging markets including urban air mobility.”
Blade already operates Sikorsky S76s on routes flying from Manhattan to Boston, Washington and DC which can be booked through the Blade app.
Rob Wiesenthal, Blade’s CEO said: “Manhattan already is the largest short-distance aviation market in the world. The influx of record new construction coupled with unprecedented ground traffic will only serve to heighten the value proposition of helicopter travel.
“By combining Sikorsky’s decades of vertical-flight expertise and AAG’s thousands of flight hours with Blade’s technology, dedicated lounge infrastructure and customer experience, we have created a fully integrated urban air-mobility platform in the market where it is needed and valued the most.”
Across the pond
Blade recently extended its service outside of the US. In November last year, the company announced it was launching its booking platform in Mumbai and is eyeing other international markets.
With this deal giving Blade access to AAG’s Sikorsky fleet – including an S76 charter that runs from London Biggin Hill Airport to the city center – Helicopter Investor asked Wiesenthal if the company is looking for opportunities in the UK. Wiesenthal replied:
“We are actively looking in the UK with its complicated mosaic of landing areas. Sikorsky is a great partner to help with this and other European opportunities.”