The Jetsons’ idea of advanced air mobility (AAM) works well in cute, 60’s-style animations but it does work well with the realities of today’s crowded national airspace (NAS). Where to take off from and where to land are the greatest obstacles to a massive deployment of AAM in the short term.
Perhaps if we think about using existing general aviation (GA) airports as a place to start we might shorten the waiting period. Or perhaps we could use flat rooftops in public-use buildings such as shopping plazas to expedite adoption of this non-traditional aerial mode of transportation.
A myriad of possibilities exists for hosting these beautifully designed eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) vehicles, but all of them have pros and cons that need to be evaluated very carefully. Now the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seeking help from the general public as it looks to create vertiports.
With the expectation of establishing new sites or adopting existing ones, the FAA is asking for input by April 18 on safety standards and design requirements. The agency said once they are filled out, the general public can email them to [email protected].
"Flying taxis are coming, but where will they take off and land? The answer is called a vertiport, and we want your feedback by April 18 on safety standards and design requirements," the FAA said on Twitter.
Apart from asking for public input, the FAA is hosting a virtual industry day meeting on March 29 to discuss an engineering brief that "provides interim guidance to airport owner-operators and their support staff for the design of vertiports for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operations."
(For more information about the details of what the FAA is looking for, go to https://www.faa.gov/airports/engineering/engineering_briefs/drafts/.)
It is interesting to note that in the FAA website cited above, the federal agency is making a particular call to current operators of airports. In other words, the FAA tacitly recognizes that these existing infrastructures are adequate staring points for a new type of aviation that is looking for a place to land. (No pun intended.)
With the abrupt announcement that the FAA Administrator, Stephen Dickson, will step down on March 31, we felt that the UAV/AAM community was losing a staunch advocate who recently promised rapid action on the adoption of relaxed rules for flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
The news that the same agency is now looking for input on vertiports give us hope that the new administrator, whoever that is, will continue supporting the idea that crewed and uncrewed aircraft can co-exist in a safe environment.
We will continue monitoring the situation with vertiports and the Biden administration’s candidate to succeed Mr. Dickson, but in the meantime, we encourage everyone to register and attend the March 29 event to gauge how serious this effort is and how close (or not) we are to a full deployment of non-traditional aircraft in controlled airspace.