United Airlines has signed an agreement with sustainable air mobility firm Archer Aviation to accelerate the production of short-haul electric aircraft.

The deal – which Archer Aviation tweeted included a “a $1 billion order from United Airlines” – will see United “contribute its expertise in airspace management to assist Archer with the development of battery-powered, short-haul aircraft”.

United said that once the aircraft are in operation “and have met United’s operating and business requirements” it would acquire a fleet of 200 of the aircraft, alongside codeshare partner Mesa Airlines.

The carrier said that electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft “are expected to give customers a quick, economical and low-carbon way to get to United’s hub airports and commute in dense urban environments within the next five years”.

Archer’s aircraft are currently designed to travel distances of up to 60 miles at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, and United said that “future models will be designed to travel faster and further”.

United said it estimated that the use of the aircraft could reduce CO2 emissions by 47 per cent per passenger on a trip between Hollywood and Los Angeles International Airport, one of the initial cities where Archer plans to launch its fleet.

Archer plans to begin aircraft production in 2023, before launching consumer flights in 2024.

Commenting on the news United’s CEO Scott Kirby said:

“Part of how United will combat global warming is by embracing emerging technologies that decarbonize air travel. By working with Archer, United is showing the aviation industry that now is the time to embrace cleaner, more efficient modes of transportation.

“With the right technology, we can curb the impact aircraft have on the planet, but we have to identify the next generation of companies who will make this a reality early and find ways to help them get off the ground.

“Archer’s eVTOL design, manufacturing model and engineering expertise has the clear potential to change how people commute within major metropolitan cities all over the world.”

united.com, archer.com