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From Napkin to New Heights: Honeywell and Vertical Aerospace

From Napkin to New Heights: Honeywell and Vertical Aerospace

A napkin signed over dinner launched an enduring partnership between two companies making a name for themselves in the exciting world of urban air mobility (UAM). Honeywell and Vertical Aerospace joined forces in 2019, making Vertical the first electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturer to choose Honeywell technology for its new aircraft.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Michael Cervenka, President of Vertical Aerospace. “It was clear from the start that Honeywell views eVTOL not just as a fad but a as a real business opportunity. Vertical was still new four years ago, and Honeywell was interested in partnering when other companies couldn’t understand the enormous potential in electric flight.

“We wanted to partner with an established, credible technology company that also had certification experience,” he continued. “The fact that Honeywell had just formed a dedicated UAM business was also important. Honeywell is a huge company, but they showed they can take an entrepreneurial approach.”

That’s really what the napkin signing at a restaurant near Vertical headquarters in Bristol, England, was all about, according to Ryan Adams, who was Customer Business Manager for Honeywell’s UAM/unmanned aerial systems (UAS) business at the time.

“We really run the UAM/UAS team by trying to emulate the speed, flexibility and agility of a small company within the larger Honeywell,” Adams said. “Having everyone at the dinner sign the napkin was a fun and symbolic way for us to reinforce the idea that we may be a big company with a proven track record and lots of resources, but we know how to act like a hungry and innovative startup.”

Honeywell and Vertical signed a more conventional contract a few days later, noted Douglas Martens, Business Development Director for the UAM/UAS group. “Our first agreement with Vertical in 2019 was to provide Honeywell’s latest compact fly-by-wire flight control system, which is designed to meet all the safety and certification requirements for UAM aircraft in a package about the size of a paperback book,” he said.

A partnership agreement between the two companies followed, Martins shared. “Then, in 2020, Vertical selected Honeywell to provide a next-generation flight deck and intuitive pilot interface for Vertical’s VX4 demonstrator. They were one of the first aircraft manufacturers to choose the cockpit we now call Honeywell Anthem,” he added. Honeywell’s newest flight deck was introduced in 2021 as the world’s first always cloud-connected cockpit. 

“There is lots of integration to be done between the avionics and flight controls, so having one partner for both makes integration Honeywell’s responsibility,” said Cervenka. “Having a flexible platform that can be tailored is super important. We’ve had a few challenges and growing pains, but we have very smart people on both sides, which matters.”

Unveiled by Vertical in 2020, the VX4 is a piloted, four-passenger VX4 eVTOL aircraft that will have a top speed of 200 miles per hour and a range of up to 100 miles. The aircraft will be nearly silent when in flight and will produce zero operating emissions. The first deliveries and start of full production are anticipated from mid-decade, according to Vertical, which has received more than 1,400 pre-orders from air carriers such as American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Japan Airlines and Air Asia.

“This is a most exciting time for aerospace,” Cervenka concluded. “The combination of agile startups and incumbents with entrepreneurial spirts and capabilities, like Honeywell, is how we’ll do aerospace in 2023.”

Alison Wyrick
Director, Global Customer Marketing