United Airlines and California-based startup Archer Aviation have announced plans to use flying cars to ferry passengers between Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and a “vertiport” just minutes from downtown.
“I’m pleased that Chicago residents will be among the first in the nation to experience this innovative, convenient form of travel,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.
The megacity challenge: With 9.6 million residents, Chicago is the third largest metro area in the US, and experts predict the population is going to exceed 10.6 million people by 2050.
At its current size, Chicago is crowded enough that the approximately 15-mile drive between its major airport and downtown can take an hour or longer. The addition of another million people could slow the trip down even more.
Archer aims to have Midnight certified by 2024 and the Chicago route operational by 2025.
Flying cars: Archer Aviation believes its in-development electric flying car, Midnight, will be part of the solution to congestion problems in Chicago and beyond.
Because the vehicle takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter, it could carry people across cities from rooftops — no need for a runway. This would not only minimize road traffic, but also help combat climate change (assuming the battery is charged by clean energy).
The partnership: In February 2021, United Airlines placed a $1 billion order for Archer’s flying cars, and in November 2022, the pair announced that they intended to establish a flight route in New York City, cutting what would normally be an hour drive down to a 10-minute flight.
They now plan to do the same in Chicago, with a fixed route between O’Hare and Vertiport Chicago, a helicopter landing facility minutes from downtown; the flight should take just 10 minutes.
Looking ahead: United and Archer haven’t said what they expect to charge Chicagoans for rides in the flying cars, but the NYC trips are expected to cost $100 each way.
Before any Midnights can fly, though, Archer will need to get the flying cars certified with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In December 2022, the agency told the startup exactly what it needs to do to obtain such certification, and Archer hopes to wrap up the process by 2024.
If it can meet that goal, it’ll be on track to begin flying Chicago passengers in 2025.
“Once operational, we’re excited to offer our customers a more sustainable, convenient, and cost-effective mode of transportation during their commutes to the airport,” said Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures.
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