Date of Award

Spring 2024

Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Scott R. Winter

First Committee Member

Stephen Rice

Second Committee Member

Ryan J. Wallace

Third Committee Member

Parimal H. Kopardekar

College Dean

Alan J. Stolzer


The emerging urban air mobility (UAM) industry is dynamic, complex, and still highly conceptual, as vertiports are not currently an operational reality in the United States. The UAM vertiport is at the epicenter of the emerging advanced aviation ecosystem, representing significant operating costs of approximately $130 million per year and more than that to design, develop, and implement. In addition to setting up and operating capital, there are considerable challenges relating to the safe design, development location, and operation of UAM vertiports, representing the confluence of human and autonomous systems, whose interdependence is not yet fully understood. UAM vertiport stakeholders are at the forefront of these significant challenges. However, until this research, there was little understanding of how stakeholders perceived and approached the associated problem-solving and decision-making. These data supported answers to the research questions asked of the purposefully sampled homogenous group through a semi-structured personal interview. The instrument was designed and tested with the help of independent UAM vertiport subject matter experts, and coding was developed using three independent coders to minimize bias, support code reliability, and add to the robustness of the findings. This study examines these stakeholders’ perspectives, representing valuable intuition reflections, opinions, and decisions to understand vertiport stakeholders’ perceptions, which may save considerable time in post-implementation fixes, more efficiently apply resources, inspire more within-industry trust, foster a much-needed UAM safety culture, and support human-centric safety and risk frameworks. Further, the findings of this study build upon the body of knowledge to support system integration, reduce human error, and increase operational safety.

The study’s methodology was qualitative, non-experimental exploratory research through the plurality of narrative and phenomenological perspectives. The study used a strategically sequenced four-phase research design, a dynamic non-linear process supporting central core principles of collaboration, criticality, reflexivity, and rigor. The central value proposition of this study was the categorization of the qualitative codes and subcodes, leading to the discovery of three emergent themes: within-industry trust, cultural friction, and fear of unknown risk. The findings of this study appear to support human perspectives and opinions that determine behaviors, decisions, and outcomes currently influencing the makeup of the emerging aviation ecosystem and the future UAM vertiport system. Additionally, these findings provide valuable insight into how and why these themes influence the potential operational safety at UAM vertiports and the emerging culture of the advanced aviation landscape.