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Air taxi testing in Florida may relocate to Orlando International Airport from Tampa



Air taxi testing in Florida may relocate to Orlando International Airport from Tampa

A recent proposal introduced in the Florida Legislature aims to designate Orlando International Airport as the testing ground for cutting-edge air mobility technologies, including air taxis, in the state. This initiative holds the potential to generate employment opportunities, foster new business ventures, and attract government investment.

Florida Representative Doug Bankson (R-Apopka) filed House Bill 981 on December 21, granting the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority the official designation for overseeing this advanced air mobility testing. The scope of Advanced Air Mobility encompasses powered-lift aircraft capable of transporting cargo or passengers, such as electric vertical takeoff and landing technology.

The bill also outlines a structured procedure for private airport owners or lessees seeking to establish a vertiport. This process involves obtaining a “powered-lift aircraft endorsement” from the Florida Department of Transportation.

While the bill currently makes no explicit mention of state funding, the conferred designation could potentially pave the way for future state and federal funding for Orlando International Airport. This official recognition is anticipated to create avenues for job opportunities and enable local businesses to engage in the research, development, and commercialization of advanced air mobility technology.

“Due to the state-of-the-art technology and expansive footprint, I believe that GOAA and Orlando International create the perfect partnership for testing this emerging next step in transportation,” Bankson said in a prepared statement.

Orlando International Airport had previously emphasized the potential of advanced air mobility technology in December, showcasing conceptual plans for its incorporation on the airport premises, including the establishment of an Advanced Center of Excellence dedicated to testing.

Tampa International Airport had also delved into testing this technology in November, with German company Volocopter successfully conducting Florida’s inaugural manned demonstration of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) flight. Tampa International Airport had identified eight potential locations for eVTOL vehicles as part of its master planning process.

While the official designation of Orlando as the state’s test site may be viewed as a missed opportunity for Tampa, it does not preclude the possibility of companies investing in the region. Kevin Thibault, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, expressed the intention to propel technology advancements throughout Florida by fostering collaboration with other airports. Furthermore, the Orlando area is already anticipating the construction of a $25 million vertiport by Lilium, a German air taxi startup, slated for completion in 2025.

“As an industry leader in multimodal connectivity, Orlando International Airport is a natural fit to function as a test site,” Thibaut said in a prepared statement. “With our availability of land, we are uniquely situated to enhance the research, development and commercialization of AAM.”

If approved, Bankson’s bill is slated to take effect on October 1. The proposed test site in Orlando would probably be subject to additional regulatory approvals in the process.


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