Arlington hopes to offer air taxi service before 2023 World Cup – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

The city of Arlington says it plans to bring air taxis to the area within the next two and a half years, flying between the city’s municipal airport, the Entertainment District and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Alicia Winkelblech, transportation director for the city of Arlington, spoke to NBC 5 on Friday about the announcement between the city and Overair, a California-based company that designs electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL, pronounced e-vee-toll) aircraft that are in able to point-to-point service.

The city’s ambitious plan includes building a vertiport at Arlington Municipal Airport and from there literally launching air taxi service into the city. A vertiport is a place where eVTOLs can land, recharge and deliver and pick up passengers or cargo. The original plan calls for passengers to be picked up and flown between the vertiport, DFW Airport or the city’s entertainment district — home to Six Flags Over Texas, Hurricane Harbor, four professional sports teams and a wealth of shopping, dining, and live entertainment.

“Residents and visitors coming to Arlington will be able to come to our airport, get on an eVTOL and take a really quick, convenient ride to DFW Airport,” said Alicia Winkelblech, director of transportation for the city of Arlington. “We’re also excited because we’ll be able to offer the same service in our entertainment district.”

Winkelblech said the city plans to have the service ready and operational by the time the World Cup begins in the summer of 2026.

“Arlington is known for our innovative approach to mobility. We have an autonomous vehicle program in the city. We have our on-demand ride share … we see the eVTOLs becoming part of our transportation system,” Winkelblech said.

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The ultimate goal, Winkelblech said, is to enable residents or visitors to be able to move through Arlington without a personal vehicle by using the city’s on-demand rideshare system and then accessing an eVTOL to get to the entertainment district, DFW Airport or ultimately somewhere else in North Texas.

“Arlington is excited to be the first vertiport in what is likely to be a future regional system. We are at the very beginning of a new phase in transportation, something that we have not done before. There is a lot of work to be done … but I think ultimately we’ll see ourselves moving around the entire Dallas-Fort Worth region in these types of vehicles as an additional option,” Winkelblech said of the air service.

The plane, called Butterfly, is being developed by Overair and can carry a pilot, five passengers and luggage. The company said: “Butterfly’s unique proprietary propulsion system and oversized rotors enable the aircraft to fly safely, quietly and efficiently in a wide range of weather conditions.” The plane has a range of about 100 miles, can travel up to 200 mph and is fully electric with zero emissions.

As part of the deal, Overair will also establish a base of operations in North Central Texas, bringing new
jobs for residents.

The company also announced Thursday that it is partnering with DFW Airport to explore what is needed to make the service a sustainable reality. They will also have to tackle operational issues such as how to approach and depart the airport, how passengers and cargo will be loaded and unloaded, and what security protocols will need to be implemented to ensure safe flight operation.

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“Today’s agreement is a major step toward bringing Advanced Air Mobility to one of the world’s largest and fastest growing metropolitan areas,” said Overair CCO Valerie Manning. “We look forward to working closely with DFW to ensure that the more than 8 million people who live throughout this region, along with the millions of visitors each year, will have easy access to safe, fast, affordable and environmentally friendly travel options.”

While Manning said it is expected to be affordable, officials have not yet said how much they expect rides to cost.

Of course, this isn’t the first time North Texas residents have been promised air taxi service. In 2017, Uber announced it was partnering with Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter, now branded as Bell Flight, and four other aircraft manufacturers to build flying taxis with the goal of taking people around North Texas.

The Uber Elevate plan called for Hillwood to develop at least three vertiports for testing by 2020, including one in Frisco, and to have full-scale taxi operations across North Texas by this year. That plan never came to fruition, and Uber Elevate was sold to Joby Aviation in 2020. Since then, there hasn’t been much talk about air taxis in North Texas, but Joby is still going strong, announcing as recently as this week that they successfully performed an exhibition flight on Sunday with their eVTOL aircraft over New York City.