LOS ANGELES — Ampaire officials report the electric aviation company has “accomplished the longest flight to date for any commercially relevant aircraft employing electric propulsion, in this case a hybrid-electric propulsion system.”
Ampaire’s Electric EEL, a six-seat Cessna 337 twin-engine modified with an electric motor in the nose and traditional combustion engine in the rear, took off from Camarillo Airport (KCMA) just north of Los Angeles at 12:20 p.m. on October 12. Test pilot Justin Gillen and Flight Test Engineer Russell Newman flew up California’s Central Valley at 8,500 feet, landing at Hayward Executive Airport (KHWD) at 2:52 p.m. Straight line distance was 292 statute miles, and the route as flown was 341 statute miles, according to company officials.
Speed during the cruise portion of the 2 hour, 32-minute flight averaged around 135 mph.
“The mission was a quite normal cross-country flight that we could imagine electrified aircraft making every day just a few years from now,” Gillen said.
This flight took place after four weeks of flight testing in the Camarillo area for the second Electric EEL test aircraft, which first flew on Sept. 10, 2020. The aircraft flew over 30 hours during 23 flights in 28 days, with 100% dispatch reliability, according to company officials.
“Our success in taking this aircraft in a short period from the test environment to the normal, everyday operating environment is a testament to our development and test organization, and to the systems maturity we have achieved with our second aircraft,” said Ampaire General Manager Doug Shane. “The ability to put innovative electric technologies into the air rapidly in order to assess and refine them is central to Ampaire’s strategy to introduce low-emissions aircraft for regional airlines and charter operators within just a few years.”
The EEL flown to Hayward is dubbed the Hawai’i Bird, as it will take part later this year in a series of demonstration flights with Hawai’i-based Mokulele Airlines on its short-haul routes. The flight trials will help define the infrastructure required for the adoption of electric aviation by airlines and airports, Ampaire officials noted.
These flight demonstrations also will mark the first time an electrically-powered aircraft has flown under an FAA “Market Survey” experimental aircraft certificate in order to gain real-world flight experience, officials add.
In Hayward, the aircraft will be partially disassembled for shipment to Hawai’i. The Hawai’i flight trials are funded in part by Elemental Excelerator, a global climate-tech accelerator based in Honolulu.
The Electric EEL can generate fuel and emissions savings up to 50% on shorter regional routes where the aircraft’s electrical propulsion unit can be run at high power settings, and generate savings of about 30% on longer regional routes, such as the Camarillo to Hayward flight, officials reported.
“The Electric EEL is our first step in pioneering new electric aircraft designs,” said Ampaire CEO Noertker. “Our next step will likely be a 19-seat hybrid electric retrofit program that will lower emissions and operating costs, benefiting regional carriers, their passengers, and their communities.”
Ampaire, with funding from NASA and others, is in the midst of design studies for such an aircraft based on the de Havilland Twin Otter. Ampaire has named the hybrid-electric 19-seater aircraft the Eco Otter SX.