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Tampa International Airport becomes the first major U.S. airport to test electric 'air taxis'

An electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft flies against the background of a blue sky.
Tampa International Airport
Photo taken of the eVTOL in action over Tampa International's airfield.

The airport's partnership with urban air mobility pioneer Volocopter saw its first successful test flight of the emerging technology on property Thursday morning.

Tampa International Airport hosted a one-of-a-kind event Thursday morning as guests and officials witnessed the first-ever successful flight of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft at a large U.S. airport.

Partnering with German-based urban air mobility and eVTOL manufacturer Volocopter, the event wowed onlookers as the crewed, all-electric vehicle — or “air taxi” for short — lifted into the skies above the airfield of Tampa International.

The eight-minute test flight, also a first for the state of Florida, marks a major milestone for proponents of the technology who are looking to integrate it into the future of urban transportation.

Speaking to the airport’s innovation-oriented vision, Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano said the technology “has the potential to transform the aviation and transportation industry, and we’re excited to partner with Volocopter as we introduce and visualize the amazing possibilities that lie ahead.”

Acting as a leader in advanced air mobility (AAM), the airport formed a committee in 2022 to study the Tampa Bay area’s infrastructure and look at how these new technologies could be integrated throughout the region within the next five to 10 years.

 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft flies over a treeline against a blue sky.
Tampa International Airport

Air taxis are part of a new category of aircraft that focuses on short- to medium-range flights, transporting people and goods to or within an urban environment. Certified eVTOLs are designed to create an efficient, eco-friendly transportation option that can reduce both traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

Volocopter CEO Dirk Hoke said the company viewed the test flight “as the starting point of the entry into service in the U.S., and we will come back to show our continued progress.”

The company recently announced a partnership with the Houston-based Bristow Group to begin operations of eVTOLs in the near future.

The test flight comes as Tampa International continues progress on its 20-year expansion plan announced earlier this year.

Tyler Luginski is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for the summer of 2024.