Ampaire’s Eco Caravan makes first flight
Ampaire’s Eco Caravan made its first flight on a fully-integrated hybrid-electric propulsion system on Friday.
The firm expects it to be the first electrified regional aircraft to enter commercial service with certification due in 2024. The Caravan will be the first in series of Ampaire-built hybrid-electrics.
The first flight lasted 33 minutes allowing the team to undertake initial checks of the propulsion system. With test pilot Elliot Seguin at the controls, the aircraft took off from Camarillo Airport north of Los Angeles at 7:49am pacific time. It climbed to 3,500ft at full power, combining power from the combustion engine and electric engine. Seguin then throttled back to a cruise setting, reducing load on both power sources.
“Aviation is the hardest industry to decarbonise,” said Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker. “Fully-electric aircraft are range limited because of the weight and energy capacity of current-generation batteries. Hybrid-electric aircraft, however, can preserve the range and utility of today’s aircraft.”
“That is why we are focused on hybrid-electric propulsion for a series of increasingly capable regional aircraft. It’s a way for the airline industry to decarbonise more quickly and also to benefit from lower operating costs,” added Noertker.
Ampaire is already working with the FAA to certify the Eco Caravan in 2024 under a supplemental type certificate (STC). The Ampaire approach differs in that it does not require a full aircraft certification programme. Cessna’s Grand Caravan is already FAA certified, Ampaire is certifying it to fly with a new propulsion system.
In October, Ampaire struck a partnership for maintenance and support services with Air France Industries KLM Engineering and Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M). Also last month, Ampaire received an order from Monte, a financier of sustainable regional aviation technologies, for up to 50 Eco Caravans.
“These types of relationships ensure that Ampaire’s customers worldwide have compelling financing and leasing support alongside world class MRO support,” said Noertker.
“Launching hybrid-electric aviation is no simple task, but we have made it easier by upgrading an already certified aircraft. We will come to market more quickly and allow airlines around the world to begin to gain operational experience with this new type of propulsion. And we will work with them on follow-on models to meet their network requirements,” he added.