Electric CTOL/STOL News, Jan/Feb 2023
With new contracts, partnerships and flight tests spanning multiple countries and companies, efforts are advancing to develop electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) and electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM) applications.
Ampaire Achieves Milestone First Flight
On Oct. 19, Ampaire and Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) agreed to collaborate on future aircraft conversions (Air France and KLM merged in 2004). The two companies will support the development of a global training program for engineers and the installation of supplemental type certificate (STC) upgrades, among other areas.
On Oct. 25, Ampaire announced that it has secured an order for 25 Eco Caravans from Monte Aircraft Leasing, a London-based sustainable aviation company seeking to build a fleet of low-emission aircraft. The order includes an option for an additional 25 aircraft.
The Ampaire Eco Caravan completed its first flight on Nov. 18, the Los Angeles-based company announced. After taking off from the Los Angeles-area Camarillo Airport, the Eco Caravan flew for 33 minutes and reached an altitude of 3,500 ft (1,069 m). The nine-seat aircraft is powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system, which uses a RED Aircraft A03 V-12 diesel engine rated to 550 hp in an integrated parallel configuration. Ampaire says it will reduce emissions by up to 70% and costs by 25–40%, compared to the conventional turboprop-powered Cessna 208 Caravan. “Fully-electric aircraft are range limited because of the weight and energy capacity of current-generation batteries,” said Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker in a statement. “Hybrid-electric aircraft, however, can preserve the range and utility of today’s aircraft.” The company expects the Eco Caravan, the first of a series of hybrid-electric commercial passenger aircraft envisioned by the company, to have a range of 1,000 miles (1,609 km).
On Nov. 22, Ampaire announced that it had received a $9M award from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The SCALEUP program award will fund work on hybrid-electric subsystems designed to meet certification requirements and to be produced in volume.
Dovetail to Supply S. Korea’s MintAir
Dovetail Electric Aviation announced on Oct. 27 that it has formed a strategic partnership with MintAir, an AAM provider in South Korea. Under the agreement, MintAir will purchase 10 electric conversions for turbine powered aircraft, possibly a mix of Cessna Caravans and Beechcraft King Airs (both Cessna and Beechcraft are Textron Aviation brands). The converted aircraft will use electric motors supplied by magniX. The aircraft will contribute to MintAir’s planned service regional routes and will initially be used for cargo transport. MintAir expects the aircraft will be fully certified by 2025. “Dovetail’s converted electric aircraft is appealing as a cost-effective workhorse for the regional air transport market,” said MintAir founder and chief executive Eugene Choi in a statement.
VoltAero Announces New Funds, Partner
VoltAero announced on Nov. 1 that it has completed raising €32M ($33.7M) in a Series B funding round. The series is the third funding phase for France-based VoltAero, which will use 69 January / February 2023 the funds to cover the certification and production launch of the five-seat Cassio 330, the first of the company’s hybrid-electric aircraft family. In addition, TESI (Tecnologie E Servizi Innovativi S.r.l), an engineering firm based in Turin, Italy, will become a strategic investor and industrial partner, and will produce the airframe for the Cassio 330 prototype. The work will take place at TESI’s Cicerale facility in Campania, southwest Italy. VoltAero expects the maiden flight of the Cassio 330 will take place in 2023. The company’s Cassio 1 testbed has flown 135 hours since 2020 with VoltAero’s full-power 600-kW electric-hybrid powertrain, logging some 6,200 miles (10,000 km).
Eviation Secures Orders
Evia Aero intends to acquire 25 Eviation Alice commuter aircraft, the Washington-based Eviation announced on Nov. 10. Evia Aero, a new German airline, plans to use the all-electric Alice to launch regional services in northern Europe. In November, Evia also announced plans to work with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions on hydrogen-electric aircraft conversion kits.
Meanwhile, Eviation announced on Nov. 10 that the Northern Territory Air Services (NTAS), an Australian regional airline, intends to acquire 20 Eviation Alice commuter aircraft. NTAS, which is based in Alice Springs, offers scheduled and charter services, and has prioritized sustainable and carbon-free technologies. The all-electric Alice made its maiden flight on Sept. 27 (see “Maiden Flight for Alice,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2022).
Rolls-Royce and easyJet Set Milestone
Rolls-Royce and easyJet announced on Nov. 28 that the companies conducted a test of a turboprop engine using hydrogen fuel for combustion. The test occurred at the Boscombe Down British military test facility and involved a ground test of a Rolls- Royce AE 2100-A engine using “green” hydrogen supplied by the European Marine Energy Centre, which uses renewable energy to generate hydrogen. The AE 2100 is a 4,000-shp engine that powers the C-27J Spartan and C-130J Hercules transports, and the Saab 2000 regional airliner; it’s a derivative of the 6,000-shp AE 1107C-Liberty (T406) used on the V-22 Osprey. The company plans to run hydrogen on its Pearl 15 business jet engine in the near future.
In a statement, Rolls-Royce said that the test demonstrated that hydrogen energy can “safely and efficiently deliver power for civil aero engines.” The two companies are planning a second test, as well as flight tests in the future. Rolls-Royce and easyJet partnered in July 2022 to expand on the possibilities offered by hydrogen for commercial aviation.
Electric Aircraft Race Planned for May
The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced on Nov. 30 the opening of pre-registration for the Pulitzer Electric Aircraft Race. The 1,000-nm (1,852-km) cross-country race will take place on May 22–25, 2023, and is open to “aerodynes of all types using zero-emission electric propulsion,” ranging from fixed-wing airplanes to multi-rotor eVTOL aircraft. Competitors are expected to fly from Omaha, Nebraska, to an airport near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the site of the Wright Brothers’ famous flight in 1903. The NAA modeled the event on the aero races of the early 1920s, when aviation pioneers raced for the fastest speed, and the winner will be awarded the same sterling silver Pulitzer Trophy. The organizers hope that the event will be an “open canvas for design innovations” and offer the public a chance to see these flying machines of the future in action.