The well-heeled customers of private jet provider NetJets may no longer have a supersonic flight path. However, they could be covering the last mile of their journeys faster in a couple of years. The unit of Berkshire Hathaway has signed a memorandum of understanding, giving it the right to order up to 150 Lilium jets. The zero-emissions eVTOLs would be used for its U.S. and European fractional ownership programs.
The electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft are an environmentally friendly next-generation helicopter replacement. The Lilium design seats four to six passengers.
The move follows rival Directional Aviation, which ordered 200 eVTOLs from Embraer-backed Eve last July. It plans to use them for its fractional and jet card sellers FlexJet and Sentient Jet. It also bought helicopter operators in the U.S. and U.K. to prepare for its last-mile strategy.
Executives believe as city centers become more congested, the next-generation aircraft will enable UHNW individuals and corporate customers to connect from their private jets to their final destinations faster. They can also be used for urban mobility, landing on rooftops instead of runways.
In this case, NetJets could also provide management services for Lilium owners who buy their own aircraft. Its Executive Jet Management unit is the second-largest charter operator in North America. So, another possibility is owners making their Lilium aircraft available on the charter market when they aren’t using them.
According to Aviation International News, Lilium has targeted a 2024 entry into commercial service.
According to the manufacturer, the memorandum also envisions NetJets as “the flight operations partner for Lilium’s Florida network and potentially other networks.”
In a letter to investors last week, its CEO Daniel Wiegand wrote, “Following last year’s announcement of our anticipated strategic collaboration with Azul, this proposed NetJets alliance would represent another step towards building up a diversified order backlog in different markets and segments, which will support revenue predictability, industrial planning, and supply chain visibility.”
He added, “Further boost to Lilium’s Florida network – NetJets as flight operator NetJets and Lilium will work together with a view to an affiliate of NetJets Inc. running Lilium’s flight operations (with an Air Operator’s Certificate) in Florida. As announced last year, Lilium’s landing infrastructure in Florida is to be handled by airport operator (and Lilium investor) Ferrovial, in conjunction with the Tavistock Development Company. Plans for the Lilium regional air mobility network in Florida, therefore, continue to progress.”
Last September, the OEM went public via a reverse-merger SPAC with Qell Acquisition Corp. valued at $3.3 billion.
NetJets has yet to comment on the announcement. The news was first reported by Aviation Week.
The proposed arrangement is subject to the parties finalizing commercial terms and definitive documentation.
Last November, NetJets said it would return to China via an investment in Shenzhen-based Amber Aviation. It also expanded its sustainability push with an investment in WasteFuel, which will produce sustainable aviation fuel.