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Beyond the immediate questions surrounding certification and business models, there is another unknown looming over these novel aircraft: How long will they last? For new versions of conventional aircraft designs, there are decades of operational experience to inform estimates of maintenance schedules and economic useful life. For electric aircraft, it’s essentially a blank slate. While original equipment manufacturers can make projections, these will be subject to the vagaries of real-world operations as well as the broader pace of technological progress.
Related: Visualizing eVTOL startups’ cash burn
All of this would seem to discourage the near-term involvement of lessors, whose business models generally depend on accurate estimates of aircraft lifespans and residual values. Yet, lessors have been leaning into advanced air mobility in a big way. Azorra Aviation, Falko Regional Aircraft, Avolon, Aviation Capital Group, LCI Aviation and Lobo Leasing are all among the companies that have announced notable partnerships with developers of passenger eVTOLs or other AAM aircraft.
There are valid reasons for lessors to be exploring the space now, and some of them will likely gamble on deals involving electric aircraft even before having a full understanding of their life cycles. Nevertheless, the inherent uncertainty associated with new technology will pose a significant challenge for traditional operating lease models in the early years of electric aviation, opening the door for innovative approaches to leasing and financing.Subscribe to continue reading...