Japanese trading and industrial group Marubeni has moved a step closer to being the first Asian customer for Vertical Aerospace’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) VX4, making an undisclosed pre-delivery payment to secure 25 early delivery slots from 200 “conditional pre-orders” it placed in September 2021.

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Source: Marubeni

Bristol, UK-based Vertical says the commitment “further reinforces Japan’s potential as a key launch market for advanced air mobility” or AAM.

Marubeni is keen to offer eVTOL flights in time for the Osaka World Expo in 2025 and in recent months has carried out what it calls “proof-of concept demonstration trials” between Osaka heliport and Wakayama using helicopters, but with “future expected AAM prices”.

This, says the company, has addressed “public awareness, acceptance, and requirements” for eVTOL services.

Vertical has been conducting tethered airborne tests with its VX4 prototype since September last year, and is aiming for service entry in 2025.

Those who have placed around 1,400 “pre-orders” for the aircraft include AirAsia, American Airlines, lessor Avolon, helicopter operator Bristow, Brazilian carrier Gol, Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. American is among the customers to have placed pre-delivery payments to secure slots.