A sign posted along 183rd Street outside the Tinley Park Helistop depicts an Eve Holding Inc. eVTOL vehicle on Thursday, Sept. 8 in Tinley Park. The company will begin two weeks of "simulation" flights Sept. 14 using helicopters to make the 15-minute flight from Tinley Park to Vertiport Chicago near Roosevelt Road and Ashland Avenue in Chicago.
People going from Tinley Park to Chicago soon may not need roads to get there if a company’s vision for a flying transit option becomes a reality.
For now, the village’s helistop, a large paved area next to the Fire Department training tower at 7750 W. 183rd St., will play host to a simulation that could herald the future of urban air travel.
Eve Holding Inc. is scheduled to conduct what it calls “Urban Air Mobility simulations” from Sept. 14 through 30 between Vertiport Chicago and the Tinley Park Helistop. While the trials will use helicopters to simulate the user journey, traffic management and other factors, the company plans to operate by 2026 with electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, or eVTOL.
The aircraft still await approval for transit from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Tinley Park Village Manager Pat Carr, but the village-owned property is a registered helistop, and the service could potentially mean a big benefit for the village and region.
“This is a billion dollar industry, and the fact that global companies are looking at Tinley Park for this industry is amazing,” Carr said.
Eve’s eVTOL design uses eight rotors to take off vertically move forward like an airplane, making for a more efficient way to fly than in helicopters and similar craft, according to Andrew Stein, president and CEO of Eve. The aircraft also produce fewer emissions, and the Brazil-based Eve boasts its eVTOL will be far quieter than helicopters while traveling at comparable speeds.
The Tinley Park Helistop near the village's Fire Department training tower along 183rd Street is pictured Thursday, Sept. 8. From Sept. 14 to 30, helicopter flights from Tinley Park are planned to simulate a service a Brazilian company hopes to establish, eventually using electric flying vehicles called eVTOL. (Paul Eisenberg / Daily Southtown)
The company can offer flights at a typically lower cost than other air options, he said, making eVTOL accessible to more than VIPs and executives. They can become a choice for everyone along with subways and buses and other ground transportation, Stein said.
“The idea is to have the widest possible base of users,” he said.
Stein said at roughly $100 for a 20-mile route, people working remotely who only make occasional trips to the office may use it for the rare commute. The eVTOL could also be an option for someone who needs to get to meetings in different parts of the region or home quickly for a child’s birthday, he said. Eve’s flight time from Tinley Park to Vertiport Chicago a few blocks southwest of Roosevelt Road and Ashland Avenue is approximately 15 minutes. The company is conducting a similar trial run from Schaumburg and Chicago, which also takes 15 minutes, they said. During the simulation, one-way flights cost $150 per seat, according to booking information on the company’s website.
“It could be something that saves you enough time to buy it,” Stein said. “It’s not something you’re going to use every day to go to work. We don’t see it replacing cars or public transportation. The point is to give another option in terms of urban mobility.”
Near the top of the myths about eVTOL that Stein finds himself dispelling is the image of flying cars from “The Jetsons.” When people hear about eVTOL, they think the aircraft is something they will park in their garage and take off from the street to fly to work.
“That’s not it,” Stein said. “It’s not an electric helicopter, either. … This is a different thing. eVTOL are their own, unique segment.”
Electric power may not work to power an airplane carrying hundreds of people thousands of miles, but there is a market for a small vehicle traveling smaller distances, Stein said. Eve has been developing its eVTOL since 2017, Stein added, and has already applied for certification in some locations.
Eve also has done market evaluations, and Chicago has been identified as a “very important market” for eVTOL, according to Stein. The area has roughly 150 possible routes, and the Tinley Park route in particular can impact more than 65,000 people, he said.
“We see a much broader number of people who can use our mobility inside the city,” Stein said.
When Eve launches its eVTOL operations, it is expected to be with piloted aircraft. The plan is to transfer to autonomous operation in the long-term. Stein said Eve has been flying helicopters with a pod of sensors since May to collect data so the vehicles can learn how to fly in an urban environment.
“We can use this data, even now, to start the progress on the future autonomous operation,” Stein said. “We’re very confident it’s as safe as aviation is today. It’s our main focus: keeping aviation safe.”
Carr said Tinley Park was originally approached about the possible simulation project by Eve in May. Because it maintains a public use helistop, Tinley Park does not charge landing or use fees at this time, Carr said. The village is providing Eve with access to electricity and space to locate a temporary terminal for passenger operations during the trial, as well as a police officer to screen passengers, he added.
The trials are expected to happen during the day, Monday through Friday, Carr said. There are always concerns about noise, but there is regular helicopter traffic every day in that area, he added.
“When actual eVTOL operations start, there will be minimal noise,” Carr said.
Bill Jones is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.