TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Picture this: Your return flight has just arrived at Tampa International Airport, but you still have to sit in traffic on your way home. But instead of climbing into an Uber, you strap into a flying air taxi.
That’s the future that Tampa International Airport imagines — and it could only be a few years away.
Airport officials are already in their initial planning stages to house cutting-edge aircraft known as eVTOLs. These aircraft function like helicopters and would pick up and drop off passengers between TPA and landing pads across the Tampa Bay area.
“This is something that is coming. It’s not just a pie-in-the-sky idea,” said Brett Fay, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority’s Director of General Aviation. “This is happening, and it’s real, and it’s going to happen over the next few years.”
Fay pointed to Tampa Executive Airport as an example of an airport that’s strategically located near the intersection of I-75 and I-4.
“It’s near the Hard Rock and the fairgrounds, Brandon, close enough to Disney and the beaches,” Fay said. “I think it has the potential to be an urban mobility hub that could serve as a center for this type of activity.”
Before you book any flights, eVTOLS still face a number of regulatory hurdles. Some electric aircraft manufacturers are aiming for certification as early as 2024, with hopes of carrying passengers within the next several years.
TPA estimates initial deployment could happen sometime between 2025 and 2030. By 2035, the airport plans on eVTOLs operating in select cities with limited automation. The end goal is operations in multiple cities with full automation, but that could take until 2045 or beyond.
“This is going to be a new way of travel that’s going to happen, really in the next couple of years,” Fay added. “You’ll start to see this unfold.”