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Aviation Startup Aims to Cut Bay Area Commute Via Flying Taxis

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Traffic can be excruciating in the Bay Area, especially during rush hour. That's why a New York-based aviation startup called Blade wants to cut down those dreadful commute times with flying taxis.

Blade, which launched in 2014, allows users to book helicopters for $195 a seat per leg. It takes riders to SFO, Palo Alto, Oakland, Napa, Half Moon Bay and Monterey.

It has extended invitations to a few hundred potential customers in the Bay Area before it publicly launches in the coming weeks.

Philip Fleischman is one of the earliest users. The San Francisco resident does market research for a healthcare company on the peninsula.

"I recently had a meeting in the East Bay, I work in Menlo Park and was cost comparing Uber, versus public transportation and thought that I should also compare against Blade," said Fleischman.

He says a trip with Blade runs roughly the same as the cost of using black car service and it's a ten-minute commute, rather than a standstill across the bay.

"Traffic is only getting worse and the constraints on the geography in a place like San Francisco mean it's not really possible to widen the roads, so that leaves tunneling or going to the air and we're betting on the air," said Will Heyburn, Head of Corporate Development at Blade.

Blade is backed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Airbus, among others. It is reportedly valued at $140 million.

The company also offers on-demand service via seaplanes and private jets.

Blade is part of a growing number of startups -- including Uber -- competing in the short-range aerial rideshare space.

"Ultimately, what we aim to do is build a platform that -- though today is using helicopters -- will someday be suitable for future electric flying machines that will be quieter and less expensive," said Heyburn.

Currently, Heyburn says the most popular route in the Bay Area is between Oakland and Palo Alto airports. The average flight time is about ten minutes.

"To bypass the two and a half hours that I spend sitting in traffic each day, that's certainly something that would be a positive on my experience living here," added Fleischman.

WEBLINK: Blade website

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