CHICAGO TRIBUNE Coming soon to the skies over Hawaii
 

Hybrid electric planes will be tested by a Hawaii airline hoping to use them for short-haul commercial flights, officials said.

Mokulele Airlines and Ampaire, a Los Angeles-based aircraft design firm, plan to test a model hybrid on Mokulele's Maui route between Kahului and Hana airports in September or October, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

A hybrid plane would provide lower operational costs as well as additional routes and more frequent flights. Hawaii is a good fit for the service because communities rely on short-haul flights to travel between islands, the companies said.

Ampaire has also considered partnerships with Caribbean and European airlines, but Hawaii's short-haul flights are ideal for the electric hybrids, said product manager Brice Nzeukou.

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"With a short flight, it shows off the technology and its benefits. Hawaii's focus on sustainability also makes it more aligned with our own vision," Nzeukou said.

A hybrid electric plane would potentially be able to reduce fuel costs by 50% to 70% and maintenance costs by 25% to 50%, Nzeukou said.

The test plane is expected to carry up to nine passengers. Range is dependent on multiple factors, but it would be capable of flying each of Mokulele Airlines' routes with reserves, including the 100 miles from Honolulu to Kahului, Nzeukou said.

The collaboration will include the loan to Ampaire of Mokulele's pilots and hangar space at Kahului Airport.

Officials say Mokulele was acquired in February by Southern Airways, but the partnership with Ampaire will continue.

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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Abel Sila