Ampaire flies the first hybrid-electric regional jet

Los Angeles-based Ampaire Eco Caravan’s nine-seat regional jet successfully completed its first flight on Nov. 18 using a fully integrated hybrid-electric power system, taking off from Camarillo Airport in California.

Ampaire expects the Eco Caravan to be the first electrified regional aircraft to enter commercial service – certification is expected in 2024 – and the first in a series of larger hybrid-electric aircraft from Ampaire that will lead the transition to green aviation.

“Aviation is the hardest industry to decarbonize,” said Ampaire CEO Kevin Nortker. “All-electric aircraft have a limited range due to the weight and energy capacity of current generation batteries. Hybrid-electric aircraft, however, can maintain the range and utility of today’s aircraft. That’s why we’re focused on hybrid-electric engines for a series of increasingly capable regional aircraft. It’s a way for the airline to decarbonize faster and also benefit from lower operating costs.”

Ampaire said the first flight adds momentum to the program, which has attracted key clients and program participants in recent months. At MRO Europe in October, the company announced a collaboration with Air France Industries KLM Engineering and Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) for a series of maintenance and support activities around the world.

Also last month, Ampaire received an order from MONTE, which finances sustainable regional aviation technology, for up to 50 Eco Caravans. “This relationship guarantees Ampaire customers worldwide compelling financial and leasing support, along with world-class M/R/Overhaul support,” added Nortker.

“Smooth and quiet” first flight

The Eco Caravan upgrades the standard Cessna Grand Caravan with an integrated Ampaire propulsion system with a compression ignition engine and an electric motor. A battery in the body fairing stores the aircraft’s passenger and cargo capacity.

The first flight lasted 33 minutes for an initial check of the propulsion system. With test pilot Elliott Seguin at the wheel, the Eco Caravan took off from Camarillo Airport north of Los Angeles at 07:49 a.m. Pacific Time. It climbed to 3,500 feet at full power, combining the power of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. The Seguin then returned to a cruising setting, reducing the load on both power supplies. He spent about 20 minutes testing the various power parameters while studying the temperature and other readings before descending and making the final approach to Camarillo at low power. “The Eco Caravan’s propulsion system performed as expected,” Seguin said. “It was even and quiet. All temperature and power indicators were normal.”

Net zero emissions from SAF

Eco Caravan reduces fuel consumption and emissions by up to 70%. Emissions are close to zero when using sustainable aviation fuel. The cost of operation is reduced by 25-40% depending on the structure of the airline’s route. The cost of an available seat mile is close to the cost of driving.

The hybrid-electric aircraft maintains the range/payload capability of the Grand Caravan and can fly further than the eight-passenger Grand Caravan. The maximum range exceeds 1000 miles. The Eco Caravan’s range and cargo-carrying capabilities contrast sharply with all-electric, hydrogen-electric and even other hybrid-electric designs on offer.

The Eco Caravan can charge its batteries in flight or at ground charging stations. As charging infrastructure will be limited for several years, the ability to operate independently of ground charging is critical to maintaining the Eco Caravan’s full utility.

The first in a new generation of sustainable electrified aircraft

The Eco Caravan propulsion technology can be extended to large regional jets and eventually to single-fuselage airliners. Ampaire plans to rapidly deploy more powerful propulsion systems for larger aircraft, following a principled approach that will significantly improve the sustainability of airline operations.

“As proud as we are of the Eco Caravan, we see it as a first step toward larger hybrid-electric propulsion systems and ultimately zero-emission systems as energy storage technology advances,” Noertker said.

First on the market

Ampaire is already working with the FAA to certify the Eco Caravan in 2024 under an additional STC type certificate. Ampaire’s approach differs from others in that it does not require a full aircraft certification program, which can be time consuming and very expensive. The Grand Caravan is already certified by the FAA. Ampaire is certifying it to fly with the new propulsion system.

“Launching a hybrid-electric aircraft is no easy task, but we’ve made it easier by upgrading an already certified aircraft,” Noertker said. “We will go to market faster and allow airlines around the world to start gaining operational experience with this new type of propulsion system. And we will work with them on the next models to meet their network requirements.”

https://www.aviationbusinessnews.com/low-cost/ampaire-flies-first-hybrid-electric-regional-aircraft/ Ampaire flies the first hybrid-electric regional jet

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