For years, flying taxis represented an exciting but distant dream, fueled in part by industry hype. Now they have a country plan and a target arrival date: 2028.

In a document released Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration outlined the steps it and others must take to introduce a competitive air taxi market in at least one place in five years. The vehicles look like small airplanes or helicopters and can take off and land vertically, allowing them to operate from the middle of cities, taking people to airports or resorts like the Hamptons in New York or Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The FAA’s plan is notable because it reflects confidence that the technology is only a few years away, and because it comes from the agency that will control certification of the aircraft as well as the rules that pilots and companies must follow.

“These things are going to come on the scene, and our job is to try to be ahead of the curve,” said Paul Fontaine, FAA assistant administrator who oversees the modernization of the air transportation system. The plan is intended to serve as a guide for bringing in the aircraft in a predictable and routine manner, the agency said.

Creating the conditions for air taxis to zip over one or more cities by 2028 will be no small task, and aircraft manufacturers will need the help of many others besides the FAA, including other federal agencies and state and local governments.

Air taxis are likely to face resistance from local officials and residents who fear they will be a safety hazard or a nuisance. Legislation and lawsuits seeking to block their use in cities and neighborhoods could set up pitched battles.

But first the aircraft must be certified. Many are designed to be fully electric, although some could be powered by hydrogen or a combination of jet fuels and batteries. The planes are still being developed by various companies and can only carry a handful of passengers. They also contain an array of new technologies and systems, many of which will need to be individually certified to meet FAA standards.

“With a lot of new aircraft technology, you bring in one very new thing and you go through that,” said Pat Anderson, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and co-founder of VerdeGo Aero, a hybrid flying taxi. company “In these vehicles, we’re trying to advance many, many things, all at the same time.”

Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation are among the US air taxi companies furthest along in that certification process, and both hope to have certified aircraft and begin commercial services in 2025, ahead of the FAA’s 2028 target. To achieve their goals, they will have to win the approval of the federal agency and local officials for specific services and routes.

But air taxi companies have had to delay such plans in the past. In 2017, Uber said it was working on electric air taxis that would to make passenger flights by 2020. Instead, that was the year Uber sold its air taxi unit to Joby, which said at the time that service could begin “as early as 2023.”

Even traditional aircraft made by manufacturers with decades of experience, such as Boeing and Airbus, often face long certification delays. And FAA officials have said they won’t compromise safety to meet the 2028 goal.

Battery capacity limits mean that the distance that many air taxis can fly will be limited. As a result, the plane will probably first be used to transport people in cities to nearby airports – a service that some companies already offer via helicopters in cities like New York.

Air taxi companies will have to compete for scarce real estate, navigate city and state regulations, develop the infrastructure to charge or fuel planes and gain acceptance from residents. They will also need to hire and train pilots, who are in high demand.

Still, the FAA’s plan underscores a growing belief among industry analysts and executives that the necessary elements are coming together for air taxis to take flight.

“People always ask me, ‘Why is this happening now?'” said Adam Goldstein, Archer’s chief executive. “It’s the technology, the regulation and the money that allowed us to get here.”

The FAA has been criticized for moving too slowly when certifying air taxis and other new aircraft. In a June report, the inspector general of the Transportation Department concluded that poor communication internally and externally could increase “the risk of certification and operational delays.”

But the agency has made some progress, recently updating a technical roadmap for spreading air taxis in cities and publishing a proposed rule in June governing how air taxi pilots should be trained and certified.

Air taxi manufacturers have also made technological strides, with several now regularly test-flying their aircraft.

Investors took notice. Several major air taxi companies have gone public in recent years, including Joby, Archer, Lilium in Germany and Vertical Aerospace in England. This year, Archer, Joby and Lilium raised more than $150 million each from investors.

Many of the companies have also deepened ties with major airlines or car manufacturers. Stellantis, the automaker that owns Jeep, Peugeot and other brands, is helping build a factory in Georgia for Archer, which has a tentative deal to sell several hundred planes to United Airlines and Mesa Airlines. Joby has a close relationship with Toyota.

Boeing recently bought Wisk, which is working on an autonomous flying taxi. And Embraer, a Brazilian company that makes smaller commercial planes, has created its own air taxi company, Eve Air Mobility.

The businesses are all competing for a market that could one day be worth tens of billions of dollars. The plane could replace some trips that happen through Uber and Lyft. For airlines, air taxis could help them win or keep the loyalty of wealthy passengers.

There are also other opportunities. UPS is working with air taxi manufacturer Beta Technologies to test air taxis for cargo in the United Arab Emirates. Beta and Joby also worked with the US military.

The key to winning over the public will be making air taxis cheap enough that many people can use them, said Michael Huerta, a former FAA administrator who is now a director on the boards of Delta Air Lines and Joby.

“Over time, it will gain greater public acceptance, but critical to that will be cost,” he said. “If you see this only as a service for very rich people, and you deal with the effects of it, you might be less accepting.”

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