California aviation company Ampaire's hybrid-electric Cessna 337 Skymaster has taken its first test flight.
The flight, which took place above California's Camarillo Airport, marked the first for a hybrid aircraft of that size. The Cessna 337 is a six-seater typically powered by twin 210-horsepower engines. Ampaire replaced one with an electric motor, creating a system in which the two propulsion devices work in concert to power the aircraft at a lower cost and with significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
“The first flight of Ampaire’s electric passenger aircraft is a huge step forward for aviation,” said Deborah Flint, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports.
ICAO has put forth a demand — with a pledge to meet it from the International Air Transport Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association and others — to cut emissions from aviation in half by 2050 relative to 2005. As part of that endeavor, alternative fuels and electrification with commercial application are both sought-after technologies in the industry. The converted Cessna was designed with a direct path toward commercialization, according to Ampaire.
“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 recognize the importance of electric aviation for climate change and community connectivity.”
As part of the FAA's flight test program, the Ampaire 337 will be flying multiple times per week from June through August of this year to collect data on its propulsion characteristics, the company said.
Ampaire's goal is to supply regional airlines. Toward the end of 2019, Ampaire plans to establish a pilot program with Mokulele Airlines on a short commercial route on the Hawaiian island Maui, using another retrofitted Cessna 337. The aircraft will be another pre-production prototype with a similar configuration to the current Ampaire 337, but a battery and motor configuration adjusted based on what the company learns from flight tests.
Ampaire is in the process of establishing another pilot program with Puerto Rican regional operator Vieques Air Link and the company said it has signed letters of interest with 14 other airlines around the world.