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Electric CTOL/STOL News, Nov/Dec 2023
  • 04 Nov 2023 06:27 PM
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Electric CTOL/STOL News, Nov/Dec 2023

Here’s our roundup of recent news on battery-electric, hybrid-electric and hydrogen-electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) and electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM) applications.

Ampaire Flies to Alaska

Ampaire said that it had completed a series of flights on Aug. 13 between southern California and Fairbanks, Alaska, with one of its hybrid-electric aircraft, with one of its two piston engines replaced by an electric motor. In an Aug. 22 press release, the Hawthorne, California-based Ampaire said that the 3,400-mile (5,500-km) journey represented several milestones: “It’s the first hybrid-electric aircraft deployment in Alaska, the first international hybrid-electric flight, and the first hybrid-electric aircraft to gain both FAA (USA) and TCCA (Canada) special airworthiness approvals. It’s the furthest north any hybrid-electric aircraft has ever flown, enabled by the first-ever deployments of mobile electric aircraft chargers in Alaska and Canada.” The demonstrator navigated wildfire smoke, rain and rugged terrain for this milestone mission.

Ampaire made the flight in a converted Cessna 337 Skymaster testbed developed with support from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E sponsored this demonstrator for the deployment of high-powered electronics, inverters, motors and related systems. Ampaire says the aircraft “now delivers 50-70% fuel cost savings and 25-50% maintenance cost savings” compared to the conventional Skymaster.

Industry Launches Hydrogen Alliance

On Sept. 5, Airbus announced the launch of the Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance in the UK to accelerate the delivery of hydrogen-powered aviation. Joining Airbus in the alliance are easyJet, Rolls-Royce and GKN Aerospace, as well as the Danish energy firm Ørsted and the UK’s Bristol Airport. By working with policymakers in the UK, the HIA seeks to help the UK “fulfil its potential as a global leader in this critical application of hydrogen technology,” according to an Airbus press release. Specifically, the HIA will work to address issues relating to infrastructure readiness, regulations and funding for hydrogen aviation research and development. “We must work together to deliver the radical solutions required for a hard to abate industry like aviation so we can protect and maximize the benefits that it brings to the UK economy and society and that we know British consumers want to be preserved,” said John Lundgren, CEO of easyJet and the first chair of HIA, in a statement.

Eviation Reveals Alice Order, Refinements

On Sept. 6, Eviation announced that Solyu, an aircraft lessor based in South Korea, signed a letter of intent for 25 Alice aircraft with an option for an additional 25 aircraft. The nine-passenger Alice is designed as an all-electric commuter aircraft and features an electric propulsion system from magniX. In a statement, Eviation CEO Gregory Davis said that the Arlington, Washington-based company has secured $5B in orders for the Alice. At the same time that it ordered the Alice, Solyu also placed an order for up to 50 eVTOL aircraft from Japan’s SkyDrive (see “SkyDrive Makes Quiet Progress,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2023).

Meanwhile, in a Sept. 13 interview with Aviation Week’s AAM Report, Davis said that the company was finalizing the last changes to the Alice. The company is making “minor refinements” to elements of the Alice such as the wing thickness and cabin windows. An Alice prototype flew for the first time in September 2022 and Eviation said in August that it had selected the Seattle-based design firm TLG Aerospace to help finalize the design for the aircraft (see “Electric CTOL/ STOL News,” Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2023).

Heart Selects Honeywell

Heart Aerospace, a Sweden-based electric aircraft developer, announced on Sept. 13 that it had selected Honeywell to supply the flight controls for its ES-30 electric aircraft. Honeywell will participate in Heart’s joint definition phase of the ES-30, a regional airplane with an expected 30-passenger capacity and 125-mi (200-km) fully electric range. Honeywell will supply its compact fly-by-wire system for the ES-30. Honeywell is the latest to join the ES-30 project, following Heart’s partnerships with BAE on batteries and Siemens on software earlier this year.

Airbus to Collaborate with ZeroAvia

On Sept. 18, ZeroAvia, a developer of hydrogen-electric propulsion systems, announced that Airbus had joined Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital and Saudia Arabia’s Neom to lead ZeroAvia’s latest funding round. The new investment will allow ZeroAvia to further its efforts to develop the ZA2000, a 2-5.4 MW modular hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain designed for regional commercial aircraft; it will be demonstrated on a 76-seat DHC Dash 8-400 (concept shown). Additionally, Airbus and ZeroAvia will collaborate on work in several technical areas related to hydrogen-electric propulsion, including liquid hydrogen fuel storage and development of hydrogen refueling infrastructure, among others. The work is expected to advance Airbus’s ZEROe initiative, which is studying a variety of potential approaches for a zero-emissions commercial aircraft by 2035, including a hybrid-electric turboprop and a blended-wing body aircraft (see “H2-Aero: Leading the Way to Carbon-Free Aviation,” Vertiflite, May/June 2022).

P&WC Partners with GKN

On Sept. 21, GKN Aerospace announced that it had agreed to collaborate with Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) on the development of its RTX hybrid-electric flight demonstrator (concept shown). As part of the agreement, GKN will develop, construct and install the electrical wiring interconnection system (EWIS) for the demonstrator. GKN Aerospace’s Netherlands division will work on the high-voltage, high-power EWIS for the hybrid-electric propulsion system, which is being developed by Collins Aerospace. Both Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace are business units of RTX Corporation, the company formerly known as Raytheon Technologies Corporation.

The partnership follows a June 19 announcement by P&WC that it had successfully completed a rated power test of the demonstrator’s 1-MW electric motor. P&WC had launched low-speed engine runs at its facility in Longueuil, Quebec, in December 2022, and expects to continue testing the engine through the end of 2023; flight tests of the modified DHC Dash 8-100 are expected to begin in 2024. The Collins Aerospace-developed motor aims to achieve a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency and carbon emissions compared to the best of today’s turboprops.

Universal Hydrogen Flies in Mojave

On Sept. 26, Universal Hydrogen Co. said it had launched a two-year flight test and maturation campaign for its hydrogen fuel cell-powered propulsion system after moving its DHC Dash 8-300 testbed from Moses Lake, Washington. The company conducted a 20-minute test flight from southern California’s Mojave Air & Space Port, during which the aircraft reached an altitude of 5,000 ft (1,520 m). The Hawthorne, California-based company selected the Mojave site due to its proximity to its headquarters and to the engineering talent in Southern California. Universal had by then conducted 10 test flights since its first flight in March 2023. The company is aiming to begin commercial operations in 2026.

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