Horizon Aircraft Goes Public, Secures Order for Up to 100 Hybrid-Electric Models

The manufacturer signed a letter of intent with Indian regional air operator JetSetGo for the purchase of up to 100 aircraft, valued at up to $500 million.

Horizon Cavorite X7 hybrid electric eVTOL aircraft

Horizon Aircraft’s Cavorite X5 model, which will soon be replaced by the seven-seat Cavorite X7. [Courtesy: Horizon Aircraft]

Canadian manufacturer Horizon Aircraft is the latest advanced air mobility (AAM) firm to put down roots in Asia.

Horizon, maker of the seven-seat, hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) Cavorite X7, on Tuesday announced an agreement with Indian regional air operator JetSetGo for the purchase of up to 100 aircraft. The deal, worth up to $500 million, comes within a week of the manufacturer’s initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

A letter of intent between Horizon and JetSetGo calls for the latter to purchase 50 X7s at $5 million apiece, for a total of $250 million. The Indian operator has the option to acquire 50 more aircraft, which would double the value of the agreement.

Capable of taking off vertically like a helicopter or conventionally from the runway, the X7 blends features of a traditional airplane with those of eVTOL air taxis. However, Horizon claims the design offers a greater range, speed, and payload than air taxi designs from Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation, Lilium, and EHang, considered four of the leading firms in the industry.

The X7 will have a variety of use cases: medical evacuation, critical supply delivery, disaster relief, and military missions, to name a few. But JetSetGo, which offers services such as private jet charter and aircraft management, will fly it on passenger-carrying AAM routes. The deal gives Horizon access to the most populous market on the planet.

“We ultimately decided to partner with a company with a deep operational and aerospace technology background that will deliver a product that will help usher in a new era of sustainable air travel, while also providing significant value for our customers,” said Kanika Tekriwal, co-founder and CEO of JetSetGo. “This partnership will help JetSetGo profitably enter new markets by leveraging the versatility of the Cavorite platform to bring about the vision of AAM in India.”

This week’s agreement comes just a few days after Horizon went public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Pono Capital Three. As of Tuesday, the firm’s common stock is trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol “HOVR.”

Brandon Robinson, founder, CEO, and board chairman of Horizon, will continue to lead the company. Management team members Jason O’Neill (chief operating officer), Brian Robinson (chief engineer), and Brian Merker (chief financial officer) will also stay on.

A SPAC IPO can be a good way for a young firm to raise money, and many eVTOL manufacturers—including Archer, Joby, and Lilium—have gone that route. But they can also be tricky, as in the case of Archer. Following its 2021 merger, Archer brought in $242 million less revenue than expected after shareholders exercised redemption rights. Joby and Lilium also saw significantly lower proceeds than anticipated.

However, Horizon is bullish on its ability to buck the trend. And a large aircraft order within a few days of going public is a positive sign.

“This evolution will serve as a catalyst to accelerate our growth by providing the resources to continue the development and testing of our practical, real-world-use hybrid eVTOL, the Cavorite X7,” said Brandon Robinson.

Not Your Normal Aircraft

Horizon announced the Cavorite X7 in September as a replacement for its Cavorite X5, which was originally expected to become its flagship aircraft. But testing revealed that the design could be expanded from five seats to seven, and customers had been clamoring for a larger aircraft with lower passenger seat mile costs.

Enter the X7. Robinson characterized the hybrid-electric design as a “normal” aircraft with eVTOL capabilities, rather than an eVTOL with features of a traditional airplane. 

The configuration is expected to reduce hydrocarbon emissions by up to 30 percent compared to conventional aircraft conducting the same missions—far from the zero-emission operations promised by all-electric air taxi manufacturers.

But the mixture of electric and conventional propulsion will deliver greater size, speed, range, and capacity, Horizon claims. At the same time, the company says it will reduce direct operating costs by up to 30 percent versus a helicopter conducting the same regional flight.

While the X7 is expected to fly missions spanning 43 to 434 nm, its maximum range of 500 sm (434 nm) exceeds the air taxi routes planned by Joby and Delta and Archer and United, for example. Its 250 mph (217 knots) top speed and 1,500-pound useful load—which rises to 1,800 pounds in conventional takeoff configuration—are also greater than Joby, Archer, Lilium, and EHang. Among those firms, only Lilium is building a seven-seater.

Lilium is also one of the few eVTOL firms that opted to produce lift using electric ducted fans embedded in the aircraft’s wings. Horizon too went with the fan-in-wing configuration, which the company says it has patented. Fourteen redundant electric ducted fans will be installed, but the X7 has successfully hovered with 30 percent of them disabled during testing. Movable surfaces cover the fans during cruise to boost lift across the wings and canards.

The X5 placed fans in both the wings and forward canards, with a pusher prop at the rear of the fuselage aiding in forward flight. It’s unclear whether the X7 will maintain that configuration.

Horizon’s design may eventually go full-electric, but it currently runs on a mixture of electric and gas. The hybrid power system can recharge the X7’s battery packs within 30 minutes between missions.

But using a range extender motor, it can also charge the batteries in the air when the aircraft flies like a conventional airplane: on fixed wings, in a low-drag configuration. The company claims the X7 can spend a whopping 98 percent of its mission flying this way—its patented HOVR wing system makes the transition after takeoff.

In addition, the X7 is designed for both VFR and IFR operations, capable of flying in inclement weather. Flight into known icing conditions, for example, is a certification goal, the company says. Certification will most likely happen in Canada: Horizon received development and type certification support for the X5 from Cert Center Canada (3C), an independent flight test and certification design approval organization approved by Transport Canada.

Horizon so far has yet to announce a manufacturing and entry into service projected timeline for the X7. Archer, Joby, and a few others are targeting commercial launches in 2025, while others, such as Boeing’s Wisk Aero or Overair, are looking further out. 

Archer in November also laid plans for operations in India with a tentative order for up to 200 air taxis. In addition, Archer, Joby, Lilium, EHang, and others have signed agreements with firms in the Middle East, a nearby market with similar demand potential.

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Jack is a staff writer covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel—and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.

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