With the emergence of numerous new technologies, aviation professionals need to stay abreast of innovations such as advanced air mobility (AAM). Many aspects of the aviation system – from aircraft and airspace operations to ground facilities – will be different in the near future, and that includes vertiports for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Rex Alexander, a globally recognized subject matter expert on vertical-lift infrastructure, is on the case.
“There are many issues associated with building a vertiport: Is the site going to accommodate one or more aircraft? Will the aircraft be recharged at that location? How much space do you allocate for parking? In the event of a fire or emergency, is there water available, because foam doesn’t work on electric aircraft?”
Although the FAA has published vertiport standards, it may be several years until regulations are adopted. In the meantime, development of eVTOL aircraft continues, and airports around the country are examining the possibilities of adding a vertiport to their infrastructure, according to Alexander.
“General aviation airports facing public pressure about noise [from conventional aircraft] may benefit from shifting some operations to eVTOL.”
“Larger airports see vertiports as a potential revenue stream, as do some smaller metro area airports. General aviation airports facing public pressure about noise [from conventional aircraft] may also benefit from shifting some operations to eVTOL. Rural communities are also interested in the EMS implications of using eVTOL aircraft.”
The wildcard in vertiport construction, however, is land zoning. “Municipalities don’t have anything on the books for vertiports, so will they zone for them?” asks Alexander. “What about state regulations, which differ from state to state?”
Alexander predicts that because of adequate space, lack of obstructions and familiarity with aircraft operations and airspace, most vertiports will initially be constructed on airports.
For flight departments, FBOs, airports, aviation associations, OEMs and others in the industry, he recommends staying abreast of the implications and business case for eVTOLs and making sure that all interested organizations are talking to each other. “There’s lots of room for collaboration among these groups.”
Rex Alexander is the founder of the aeronautical consulting firm Five-Alpha (5α) and has served as Infrastructure Advisor to the Vertical Flight Society since 2019. He is co-chair of the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team Infrastructure Working Group and has more than four decades of aviation experience.