Highest capacity hybrid-electric aircraft takes flight
Ampaire has test-flown what it claims is the world’s highest-capacity electric aircraft to date.
Ampaire, Inc. says it has moved the aviation industry a major step forward with the test flight of the Ampaire 337, the highest-capacity hybrid-electric aircraft ever flown.
Ampaire engineers, investors and journalists witnessed the hybrid-electric Ampaire 337 fly in the skies above Camarillo Airport.
“This is a significant step for aviation because never before has a hybrid-electric aircraft this large flown. Ampaire’s 337 is built with a direct path towards commercialisation – moving electric aviation firmly from futuristic to attainable,” a statement from Ampaire said.
“Imagine that in just a few years you will be able to buy a ticket for a flight that is clean, quiet and inexpensive,” commented Kevin Noertker, CEO of Ampaire.
“Ampaire is proud to lead the aviation industry in transportation electrification, and we recognise the importance of electric aviation for climate change and community connectivity.”
The aircraft, based on the six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster, was retrofitted with Ampaire's proprietary electric propulsion system and is powered by a lightweight battery system.
The battery-powered electric motor replaces a combustion engine of the aircraft's original two-engine configuration, and the resulting system is a ‘parallel hybrid’, meaning the internal combustion engine and electric motor work in concert to optimise power output as the plane flies.
In hybrid configuration, the aircraft sees significant greenhouse gas emissions savings and operating cost reductions, Ampaire says. The experimental plane was flown by a test pilot and flight engineer.
Ampaire plans to launch commercial operations in 2021.
The test flight follows the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) May 2019 airworthiness approval to begin a flight test programme.
The test flights will see the aircraft fly multiple times per week from June through August 2019 and will gather data about the electric propulsion performance characteristics.
In late 2019, Ampaire will begin a pilot project on a commercial route on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The aircraft will be a newly retrofitted Cessna 337 built with learnings from the test flight program that inform the configuration of the battery and motor. This aircraft will be a pre-production prototype and will move Ampaire closer to commercial readiness.
Ampaire’s focus is on supplying aircraft to regional airlines – who typically fly short-haul – often serving remote communities and island regions.
In addition to the upcoming pilot project in Maui, Ampaire is also in collaboration with Vieques Air Link (VAL), a regional airline in Puerto Rico, to establish a pilot project in the region.
Alongside Mokulele Airlines and VAL, Ampaire has signed Letters of Interest with 14 other airlines across the world.