Orlando International Airport (KMCO) appears set to serve as a hub for advanced air mobility (AAM) services in Florida, according to Lilium.
The manufacturer of the seven-seat electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) Lilium Jet on Thursday announced it has designated the intended 56,000-square-foot vertiport at the airfield—for which the company announced construction plans in 2020—as a “key regional air mobility (RAM) network hub” for Florida.
RAM is a subset of AAM that aims to connect entire regions, flying city to city as Lilium intends to do. In contrast, urban air mobility (UAM), which is being pursued by eVTOL manufacturers such as Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation, typically comprises flights contained to a single city or metropolitan area.
Lilium and its partners settled on airport property as the ideal location for a vertiport. The proposed site is intended to improve customer access while reducing costs for operators. According to the German firm, RAM will bring better-connected aviation services and economic growth to Florida.
Lilium on Thursday also announced its support for Florida Legislature House Bill 981, which proposes designating Orlando International Airport as Florida’s official AAM test site. The legislation would further enable vertiport permitting in the state.
“We are thrilled about the proposed advanced aviation center at Orlando International Airport and commend Orlando for its dedication and vision to advancing AAM,” said Sebastien Borel, chief commercial officer at Lilium. “Building a vertiport at the major hub airport will ultimately enhance regional mobility by increasing passenger access and connectivity while allowing multiple operators to use the facility and share in the cost.”
Lilium’s presence in Florida dates to 2020. That year, the manufacturer, the city of Orlando, and the master-planned community of Lake Nona—which is just a few minutes’ drive from Orlando International—agreed to bring RAM to Florida.
The partners’ goal is to create a network of electric air taxi routes flown by Lilium’s flagship Jet, designed for a pilot and up to six passengers. The eVTOL uses 36 electric ducted fans embedded in its wings for vertical propulsion, cruising on fixed wings. Lilium envisions the aircraft flying between towns and inner cities, cruising at 162 knots on trips spanning 25 to 125 sm (22 to 109 nm).
In 2022, fractional aircraft ownership company NetJets signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of 150 Lilium Jets, which it intends to operate within the Florida network. Lilium also struck a deal with vertical flight solutions provider Bristow Group for maintenance services in the region and partnered with FlightSafety International to train eVTOL pilots.
The “airport city” comprising Orlando International and Lake Nona will be a pivotal hub for Lilium Jet operations in the state, the manufacturer said. Its central location puts the aircraft within range of other major cities such as Tampa and Jacksonville. The region—with its plethora of resorts and attractions—draws an estimated 80 million visitors each year.
Coupled with the “world-class” airport and the fast-growing community of Lake Nona, the planned vertiport will turn Orlando into a multimodal transportation hub, Lilium predicted.
Florida’s HB 981, which Lilium backed Thursday, would allow the company to further scale up operations by standing up a dedicated AAM test site and enabling the construction of more vertiports. The firm said it is working directly with State Representatives Doug Bankson, who sponsored the bill, and Fiona McFarland to adopt policy that would benefit RAM services and its commercial partners.
“These strides reinforce our decision to announce Central Florida as a key launch region for the Lilium Jet and align with our longstanding commitment to accessible, sustainable transportation,” said Borel. “Solidifying the Greater Orlando region as a test bed for AAM demonstrates the state’s commitment to progressing regional mobility and advancing aviation technology.”
Lilium will maintain relationships with Bankson, McFarland, and other state officials and sponsors of HB 981 to push for a safe, efficient vertiport approval process. It also intends to continue working with the city of Orlando, Lake Nona, and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority—the Florida government entity responsible for operating Orlando International Airport and Orlando Executive Airport (KORL)—to support its efforts in the state.
Lilium is aiming for European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification in 2025. It expects FAA approval to follow shortly after under the provisions of the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement between two regulators. The firm is the only eVTOL manufacturer with certification bases on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lilium intends to sell 50 Pioneer Edition Jets—the planned launch version of its full-scale model— in the U.S. and other markets, targeting wealthy buyers. Its focus on the premium segment is part of its commercial launch strategy. The firm views business aviation or executive flyers as potential customers for short-hop, regional flights at a higher price point than commercial travel.