Ampaire successfully flew its Eco Caravan for the first time on Friday, from Camarillo Airport, California. The Eco Caravan is a nine-seat regional aircraft with a fully-integrated hybrid-electric propulsion system.
This hybrid-electric aircraft is expected to be the first electrified regional aircraft to enter commercial service when it achieves certification in 2024. This is the first in a series from Ampaire, with larger hybrid-electric aircraft.RELATED STORIES: Ampaire receives order from MONTE for up to 50 Eco CaravansAmpaire selects Electric Power Systems to supply batteries for Eco Caravan
The Eco Caravan's successful trip means a transition to sustainable aviation. The aircraft reduces fuel consumption and emissions by up to 70 percent. Factoring in sustainable fuel reduces emissions to almost zero. The cost is greatly reduced, with a 25 to 40 percent drop from the Grand Caravan, depending on the airline route. If successful, features on the Eco Caravan increase the likelihood of sustainable aviation by the industry goal of 2050. "Aviation is the hardest industry to decarbonize," Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker said. "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 decarbonize more quickly and also to benefit from lower operating costs."
The pioneer flight of the Eco Caravan was 33 minutes long to check on the propulsion system. Test pilot Elliot Senguin was at the controls, leaving the Camarillo Airport to climb 3,500 ft at full power. Senguin spent 20 minutes testing various power settings and studying temperatures and various readings. The final descent was made at Camarillo at a lower setting.
"The Eco Caravan propulsion system performed just as expected," Seguin said. "It was smooth and quiet. All temperature and power output readings were normal."
Ampaire's Eco Caravan is an upgraded standard Cessna Grand Caravan. The aircraft has the addition of Ampaire's integrated propulsion system of a compression ignition engine and an electric engine. The new technology in the Eco Caravan is scalable for larger model aircraft and will ultimately be used in single-aisle airliners. Ampaire planned to continue working on a more powerful propulsion system to sustain a larger aircraft than the Eco Caravan.
"As proud as we are of the Eco Caravan, we see it as a first step to larger hybrid-electric propulsions systems and ultimately zero-emission systems as energy storage technology advances," Noertker said.
Ampaire has already received an order for 50 Eco Caravans from MONTE, a financier of sustainable regional aircraft and aviation technology. It was announced at MRO Europe in October that Ampaire had a relationship with Air France Industries KLM Engineering and Maintenance for worldwide maintenance and support.
"These types of relationships ensure that Ampaire's customers worldwide have compelling financing and leasing support alongside world-class maintenance/repair/overhaul support," added Noertker.Test pilot Elliot Seguin with Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker
Ampaire is currently working with the FAA to have the Eco Caravan certified by 2024 under a supplemental type certificate. This aircraft does not require a full aircraft certification program. The Grand Caravan has already been certified and the new Eco Caravan will be certified to fly with the new propulsion system.
"Launching hybrid-electric aviation is no simple task, but we have made it easier by upgrading an already certified aircraft," Noertker said. "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."