12-Jan-2021 Source: Blade
BLADE Urban Air Mobility (“Blade”) and Ross Aviation entered into a strategic alliance to expedite the roll-out of urban air mobility services in the regions where Ross Aviation and Blade operations overlap. In December of 2020, Experience Investment Corp. (NASDAQ: EXPC) agreed to merge with Blade, which will create, following the closing of the merger, the only publicly traded urban air mobility platform in the United States.
Under the strategic alliance, Blade plans to launch a pilot program offering daily helicopter flights between Ross Aviation’s West Terminal at the Westchester County Airport (the “Airport”) and Blade heliport terminals in Manhattan to serve commuters from the Westchester/Connecticut area. In 2019 alone, these commuters took more than 40 million trips commuting to and from New York City, the majority driving alone in a car for 1-2 hours in each direction. Blade expects the five-day-per-week service to begin as early as March 2021, transforming that 1-2 hour drive into a 10-15 minute flight. The price per flight per person is expected to be approximately $175. Blade expects 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.”
Beyond the greater New York area, Blade and Ross Aviation intend to work together to offer Blade services and terminals at one or more Ross Aviation Fixed Based Operations (“FBOs”) in Bedford and Cape Cod, Massachusetts as well as Palm Springs/Thermal and Long Beach, California. This program is expected to launch in the second half 2021. In addition, the companies plan to seek additional areas for cooperation as Ross Aviation adds FBOs to its network.
Eric Affeldt, the CEO and Chairman of Experience Investment Corp. (“EIC”) said, “When our sponsor KSL Capital Partners and I launched EIC, our goal was to leverage longstanding relationships, our network of industry connections and other KSL assets to help uncover attractive opportunities and expedite the growth plan for our merger partner. This alliance creates an important partnership for Blade and Ross Aviation (a portfolio company of KSL Capital Partners) to accommodate EVA routes, maintenance and charging stations in key markets.”
Each of the parties’ undertakings discussed above is subject to each of Blade and Ross Aviation entering a definitive agreement regarding the foregoing.