Kittyhawk, the company named after the green hills where the Wright brothers made their first controlled winged flight, is struggling to get off the ground. Now it looks like the folks behind the air taxi company are ready to throw in the towel and provide little fanfare as they dive with their little one bird into the ground on silent wings.
On Wednesday, the company wrote on its LinkedIn page a very brief statement that read “We have made the decision to phase out Kittyhawk. We are still working on the details of what’s next.”
Kittyhawk became famous around the world for his lofty idea of creating fast, compact and efficient flying cars that could potentially take off with little to no runway. The project was led by CEO Sebastian Thrun – a pioneer of self-driving cars – with further headlined by Google co-founder Larry Page, who provided consistent financial support throughout the 12-year run.
The company did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but Business Insider citing anonymous internal sources familiar with the matter, CEO Sebastian Thrun notified employees of their decision the same day it was made public. Sources also said the company had already put the brakes on its most recent flying car project called Heaviside, where Page apparently applied a little elbow grease on the advisory side.
The company had gone through several projects during its lifetime. Kittyhawk revealed his Cora pilotless air taxi in 2018, promising it could take off and land vertically, while being able to cruise at 110 mph at about 3,000 feet. It reportedly performed well in tests, but the public saw nothing but video tests. The following year, the air taxi makers announced: a collaboration with Boeing on a project called Wisk. Otherwise, the last the public had heard from the air taxi company was the end of their light electric flying car project called “Flyerin 2020.
We still have no word from Kittyhawk as to where their project could go next to Boeing now that the company is shutting down. Boeing told Gizmodo in an email statement that “We do not expect Kitty Hawk’s announcement to affect Wisk’s business or anything elseactivities in any way.”
So who will take Kittyhawk’s place in the quest for ultralight flying vehicles? Well, we’ve seen attempts from people like Uber, although we weren’t impressed with their wide, cumbersome initial design. Joby Aviation has acquired the company from Uber back in 2020and the company has received the first green light from the Federal Aviation Administration to take to the air.
United also recently put $15 million in the flying taxi space through the startup Eve Air Mobility. Other major airlines are investing a lot of money in the space, but so far we haven’t seen a commercial model that looks anything but cool for promotional videos. With air taxi pioneer Kittyhawk out of the picture, we’ll just have to wait and see if one of these short-haul planes actually takes off.
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