Azul To Buy 220 Lilium Jets For Brazilian Network

Rendering of Lilium 7-seat jet concept.
Credit: Lilium

FRANKFURT—Brazilian airline Azul has signed a MOU for the acquisition of 220 Lilium Jets, making it the first airline to opt for the 7-seat electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the companies said Aug. 2.

Lilium and Azul said they also conditionally agreed to form a “strategic partnership” to develop a regional high-speed transportation system in Brazil. The agreement is subject to final contractual confirmation and documentation. The German eVTOL manufacturer plans to present details of the deal, worth around $1 billion, at an Aug. 2 investor forum.

According to Lilium Chief Strategy Officer Alexander Asseily, the MOU is to be turned into a firm order between now and the end of 2021.

The preliminary order follows a similar conditional commitment by United Airlines for 200 Archer eVTOLs, made public in February. In June, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and lessor Avolon signed up for 250, 150 and up to 500 VA-X4s from UK-based Vertical Aerospace, a four-seat aircraft capable of ranges up to 100 nm, according to Vertical. Embraer’s Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions received conditional orders for 200 and 50 air taxis from helicopter operators Halo and Helisul Aviation.

Lilium plans to introduce its Lilium Jet into revenue service in 2024, initially in Germany and Florida. The company only recently presented the 7-seater concept, which is significantly larger than the two initial prototypes. The aircraft is planned to be capable of flying ranges up to 155 nm at a speed of 175 mph and an altitude of 10,000 ft. The company, based in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, near Munich, is being taken over by special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Qell Acquisition Corp.

As part of the agreement, Azul plans to operate and maintain the Lilium Jet fleet. In addition to delivering the aircraft, Lilium will provide a platform for technical monitoring of the aircraft, batteries, spares and materials. Azul also agreed to support Lilium with the necessary regulatory approvals and certification in Brazil.

The Azul deal is “another flavor of business model, a slightly more traditional approach where we are selling fleets of aircraft to customers be it airlines, later potentially governments or logistics companies,” Asseily said. “One of the countries for this approach is Brazil. We are at the beginning of this industry. We need to establish routes in our own backyard, but we would be hard-pressed to get up to speed in the same kind of quality in Brazil or China,” he added.

Azul was set-up by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman in 2008 and has grown into a large domestic airline in Brazil that also offers international services. Azul is based at Viracopos International Airport (VCP) north of São Paulo. Its second hub is Belo Horizonte International Airport, in Confins (CNF). 

Brazil is one of the largest markets for civil helicopters, popular for inner-city transportation, particularly in São Paulo. 

“We know how to create and grow new markets,” Neeleman said. “Again, we see great market potential for bringing the Lilium Jet to Brazil.”

São Paulo, one of the world’s megacities, will be the initial focus of a regional high-speed network that Azul and Lilium plan to establish. Part of the network will be connections to Azul’s main base at VCP, and São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport (GRU). 

But the two companies also target the São Paulo-Rio de Janeiro market, Brazil busiest air route currently only served by large aircraft on the Ponte Aerea, or air bridge. 

“We won’t make it to Rio until 2-3 years after the initial start of operations. Soon after 2026, we expect to get to a range of 300 km [162 nm],” Asseily said. That would be sufficient to link the two cities.

Separately, Lilium announced that Gabrielle Toledano, COO at Keystone Strategy, and Henri Courpron, CEO of Plane View Partners, will join its board of directors upon completion of the Qell merger. 

Among other roles, Toledano has been Chief People Officer at Tesla, Electronic Arts and Siebel Systems. 

Courpron has held a number of top management positions at Airbus before becoming CEO of Airbus North America and ILFC, now part of Avolon. Courpron is also a close advisor of Neeleman, having been a member of the board of directors of Azul and TAP Air Portugal—which used to be part-owned by Neeleman—and is on the board of the latter’s latest start-up carrier, U.S.-based Breeze Airways.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.


1 Comment
I hope infrastructure and regulatory agencies keep pace with this technology; if they don’t the legal system certainly will.