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Air Taxi…What a Concept!

Posted 6 years 36 days ago ago by Randy Rowles

A couple months ago, an article in the newspaper caught my eye. The article was titled “The First Air Taxi Coming to Dallas”. Initially, I thought a new Part 135 helicopter operator popped up and this was an attempt to market themselves in the area. However, this was not the case. The article provided an overview of the relationship between Uber and Bell (formerly Bell Helicopter), and how their newly founded joint venture Uber Elevate would launch in Dallas around 2023. This got me thinking...

In the late eighties, I started in the helicopter industry working for what was known then as an Part 135 “Air Taxi” [helicopter] service in Palm Beach, Florida. We provided on-demand helicopter transportation throughout the South Florida and Caribbean market. Fast forward to September 12th, 2001, the Air Taxi [helicopter] market changed forever.

We could no longer land at many sporting venues, local municipalities that once supported landing zones for our operations ceased to exist, and preferred destinations such as restaurants located in high-profile locations (Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida) were shutdown. All of this in the name of National Security?

Today some 17-years later, the existing Air Taxi [helicopter] market continues to suffer due to the tremendous lack of infrastructure to support operations. No concerted effort has been taken to provide relief from regulatory restrictions that continue to handicap any potential regrowth of the Air Taxi [helicopter] market.

When I read the title of the article, I was surprised because many Air Taxi [helicopter] operators are in the Dallas area. How is this the “First” air taxi in Dallas? Because the emphasis appears to remove the [helicopter] from the model. 

The Air Taxi model being marketed currently is designed to support new technology being developed to include new Air-Mobility Solutions such as electric air vehicles to the market. Comprehensive infrastructure to support such initiatives are being fully supported at the highest levels of both government and corporate entities. Industry groups and manufacturers are so enthralled by the possibility of such an opportunity, they’ve altered their branding for technologies that haven’t even been developed yet.

Many questions exist regarding the integration of new air-mobility technologies and how they will affect the existing helicopter industry to include: Will helicopters be able to utilize this new Air Taxi infrastructure? Too much emphasis is being placed on airspace integration when the operational existence of the Air Taxi [helicopter] market is moving toward extinction. Airspace integration of new technologies have proven successful with the introduction of every new category of air vehicle in existence today. Why would this prove any different?

I fully support the initiatives being taken by companies to improve the safety and availability of air-mobility solutions to the greater majority of the population. However, don’t forget those current operators struggling to maneuver the waters of bureaucracy just so they can continue to operate safe and efficient Air Taxi [helicopter] operations. 

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate our Air Taxi [helicopter] operators…or is it?  

About Randy:  Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award.  Randy is currently  Director of Training at Epic Helicopters in Ft. Worth, Texas.