Ampaire selects RED Aircraft to provide Eco Caravan engine, firm orders received



Ampaire is to use RED Aircraft’s AO3 series engine in its hybrid-electric propulsion system currently being developed for its Eco Caravan. The compression ignition engine rated to 550 hp (405 kW) will be used in an integrated parallel configuration.

Ampaire’s Eco Caravan is an upgrade to the current Cessna Grand Caravan. The RED engine will provide the base power with peak power coming from Ampaire’s electrical system.

Under the terms of an MOU, Ampaire will develop complete hybrid-electric propulsion systems and certify them for various applications up to 800 hp, while RED Aircraft will develop, certify, and supply Jet A/SAF compatible engine subsystems to Ampaire.

Kevin Noertker, Ampaire, CEO said: “The modern, powerful and ultra-fuel-efficient RED engines have exactly the right characteristics for the Eco Caravan’s hybrid-electric propulsion system and for many other upgrades or all-new designs we may pursue. We are very pleased to take this first step in collaboration with a company that shares our goal to decarbonise aviation while reducing costs for aircraft operators and their passengers.”

The new propulsion system for the Eco Caravan will be the first in a series of electrified fixed-wing aircraft. Fuel consumption is reduced by 70% on shorter trips and 50% on longer ones which also reduces emissions. RED’s engine provides thermodynamic efficiency that twice as good as a comparable turboprop engine. It is also JET A/SAF compatible.

Also, engine initial cost and ongoing maintenance are substantially lower than for a turboprop engine. RED engines are flying in applications such as the Air Tractor AT 301 and the YAK-52 aerobatic trainer.

Jürgen Schwarz, CEO, RED Aircraft said: “RED Aircraft sees enormous potential for hybrid-electric aircraft and believes the Eco Caravan is just the first step to bringing a new level of efficiency and vastly lower emissions to a large swath of aviation. We are thrilled to be pursuing these opportunities hand-in-hand with Ampaire.”

Ampaire predicts the Eco Caravan’s operating cost is 25-40% lower depending on an operator’s route structure.

The firm conducted the first Eco Caravan hybrid powertrain ground runs in April 2022, with plans to fly the aircraft in the second half of the year. The company is working with the FAA to achieve supplemental type certificate (STC) approval by 2024.

The aircraft will retain the payload capabilities of the Grand Caravan, carrying up to 11 passengers or 2,500 pounds of cargo. Range improves to 1,100nm.

Ampaire has also now secured a firm order backed by deposits for five Eco Caravans, plus an option for an additional 20. The buyer is WingTips, an air mobility company operating in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Both firms expect another 175 orders for the Eco Caravan as WingTips expands nationwide, plus 50 of Ampaire’s follow-on 19-seat Eco Otter aircraft.

WingTips plans to use these new aircraft on regional routes of 100-400miles, flying mainly from convenient general aviation airports. The company uses artificial intelligence to offer individual seats to on-demand charter passengers, and advanced floating fleet algorithms to optimise fleet usage. 

The firm also just flew the longest ever flight in a hybrid-electric aircraft (22 July) when Ampaire’s EEL demonstrator completed a 1,880mile mission from Los Angeles to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The journey included the single longest nonstop flight – 1,135miles.