Kittyhawk, the air taxi company backed by billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page, is shutting down, dealing a setback to the long-elusive dream of developing flying cars.
“We have made the decision to liquidate Kittyhawk,” the company said on Twitter. “We’re still working out the details of what’s to come.”
The company’s technology is expected to live on in the form of its Wisk Aero joint venture with Boeing Co. Wisk operations will not be affected by the Kittyhawk shutdown, Boeing said Wednesday.
We have made the decision to disable Kittyhawk. We are still working on the details of the following.
— Kittyhawk (@kittyhawkcorp) September 21, 2022
Kittyhawk was founded in 2010 to pioneer the so-called eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft) market with the lofty goal of democratizing the skies. The secretive company was led by Sebastian Thrun, a Google veteran who worked on self-driving cars, augmented reality glasses and other projects.
The business was one of several startups working on the concept, which has proven to be more of a challenge than some expected. Air taxis have suffered crashes during testing in recent months, raising concerns about their safety.
Insider previously reported on Kittyhawk’s closing plans.
Kittyhawk formed his company Wisk with Boeing Co. in 2019, and the aircraft manufacturer invested $450 million in the partnership. Earlier this week, Boeing and Wisk laid out their vision for a world where eVTOLs can coexist with larger commercial aircraft.
“Kittyhawk’s decision to cease operations does not change Boeing’s commitment to Wisk,” a spokeswoman for the plane maker said in an email. “We are proud to be a founding member of Wisk Aero and excited to see the work they are doing to drive innovation and sustainability through the future of electric air travel.”
The aviation titan helped showcase Wisk’s rotor-powered Cora aircraft at the Farnborough International Air Show in July. In addition to financing the business, Boeing has been providing engineering resources for a larger four-seater electric plane that Wisk intends to certify with US regulators.
The air taxi market still has numerous competitors, including Joby Aviation Inc., Archer Aviation Inc., Germany’s Lilium NV and Brazil’s Eve, but they face an uncertain outlook for these futuristic vehicles. Aviation regulators have yet to certify the next generation of human-carrying flying machines.
Kittyhawk’s goal was to make an air taxi that could be remotely piloted, was smaller and lighter than other eVTOLs, and could take off from almost anywhere. The company aimed for a cost of less than $1 per mile, which would have made taxis cheaper than ride-sharing services.
Now Kittyhawk’s shutdown closes a chapter for one of the most high-profile eVTOL pioneers and shows just how difficult it is to crack the market. As of Wednesday, the company still had this message on its homepage: “If anyone can do this, we can.”
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