Largest-ever electric aircraft successfully completes test flight

Ampaire’s highest-capacity hybrid plane is moving electric aviation firmly from futuristic to attainable. Regular commercial service could launch as soon as 2021

Californian startup Ampaire has made another step towards more sustainable flying. On Thursday, 6 June, the Los Angeles-based firm successfully tested its highest-capacity hybrid aircraft above Camarillo airport in California, United States.

The Ampaire’s 337 aircraft has made it into history for being the largest hybrid-electric aircraft ever flown. The startup retrofitted the plane based on the six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster. But in comparison to a regular Cessna, it has a proprietary electric propulsion system.

To make its operations more environment-friendly, the plane’s battery-powered electric motor replaces a combustion engine of the aircraft’s original two-engine configuration.

The resulting system configuration is a parallel hybrid. This means that the internal combustion engine and electric motor work in concert to optimise power output as the plane flies. In the hybrid configuration, the aircraft sees significant greenhouse gas emissions savings and operating cost reductions.

“Imagine that in just a few years you will be able to buy a ticket for a flight that is clean, quiet and inexpensive,” said 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.”

Ampaire claims to have mapped a clear path from the first test flight of a prototype to commercial operations in 2021. Thursday’s test flight follows the Federal Aviation Administration’s airworthiness approval to begin a flight test programme.

Regular commercial service could launch as soon as 2021 — Ampaire Largest-ever electric aircraft successfully completes test-flight
Regular commercial service could launch as soon as 2021 — Ampaire

The test flights will see the aircraft fly multiple times per week from June through August 2019. Eventually, it will gather data about electric propulsion performance characteristics.

Ampaire to launch hybrid-aircraft service in Hawaii

First passengers willing to experience hybrid flying should head to Hawaii as Ampaire will begin a pilot project there in late 2019.

The manufacturer has teamed up with local airline Mokulele to test the retrofitted Cessnas on a route out of Maui.

Ampaire says its focus is on supplying aircraft to regional airlines. In addition to the upcoming pilot project in Maui, Ampaire is also collaborating with Vieques Air Link, 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.