Ben Tigner is getting ready to take his flying taxi company Overair to the next level.
The company is currently manufacturing an all-electric, full-scale prototype for the Butterfly flying taxi program, with flights expected to begin by early next year.
“We expect that we’re going to be able to get it flying around the turn of the year,” according to Tigner, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
The Butterfly will have a range of over 100 miles, the ability to recharge quickly between trips, and a top speed of around 200 miles per hour. It will carry five passengers and a pilot.
Getting a full-size experimental prototype aloft will be a giant step for the company, which is developing the electric-power vertical take and landing craft (eVTOL) in a 203,000-square-foot hub in Santa Ana near Segerstrom High School.
The test flight will take place at a site in Victorville about 85 miles from Los Angeles.
Putting the Butterfly into commercial service may be around four years away.
“We expect to be certified in 2027, so shortly thereafter we should be able to begin commercial operations,” Tigner told the Business Journal.
Tigner sees a booming eVTOL market in Orange County that includes Hynduai Motor Group’s Supernal, which has opened an engineering headquarters in Irvine.
“This is going to be a big, important industry that has big economic consequences,” Tigner said.
A key innovation is using slow-turning propellers that produce very little sound, allowing the Butterfly vehicle to operate in high-density areas with noise-sensitive communities.
Tigner confirmed the Overair strategy includes both selling the Butterfly flying taxis to other companies and running its own ride service.
He expects the employee headcount to grow from 170 to over 200 by the end of the year.
Tigner co-founded Overair in 2020 with legendary Predator drone pioneer Abe Karem.
Karem is very much involved in the Overair project, according to Tigner.
Overair received $145 million in additional funding from its South Korean backer last year.