A Californian start-up called Ampaire has successfully flown their attempt at a hybrid aircraft. The plane, modelled on a Cessna 337 Skymaster, has a normal engine at the front, in addition to an electric engine at the rear.
While companies look to reduce CO2 emissions, the industry is increasingly looking towards electric aircraft. When electricity is generated using renewable sources, the flight is deemed to be carbon neutral. However, the problem for now is creating the capacity to power an engine for a whole flight. As such, the majority of electric aircraft projects are currently confined to small aircraft, up to ten seats.
Ampaire flew their hybrid Cessna 337 on June 6th. The first flight of the hybrid electric aircraft took place in Camarillo, a popular general aviation airport to the west of Los Angeles. While the aircraft in use is 46 years old, it has received a new lease of life with its high tech electric engine.
Ampaire hopes that, following two years of testing with the FAA, the aircraft can commence commercial flights. In fact, the company hopes that small regional airlines in need of six-seat aircraft will operate their plane. As such, they are currently targeting operations in Maui, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Speaking of the aircraft, Kevin Noertker, CEO of Ampaire said to Cafe Foundation,
“Imagine that in just a few years you will be able to buy a ticket for a flight that is clean, quiet and inexpensive. 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.”
What does this mean for the industry?
While this may not seem like a huge step for the industry, it is fairly significant. Given that the work is taking place on a six-seater aircraft, it is unlikely that the technology will have a huge impact on large passenger aircraft for the time being. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction; everything has to start somewhere.
If Ampaire’s hybrid Cessna 337 proves to be a success, there is a possibility that they could work on scaling the technology to a larger aircraft. It also shows the industry that this is possible, and challenges them others to react to climate change.
A big push in the industry
There is currently a big focus on electric and hybrid aircraft in the industry. In fact, Airbus is working on flying a British Aerospace RJ100 with one completely electric engine. Known as the E-Fan X, they hope for a first flight by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, Heathrow Airport last year launched a competition to attract hybrid electric aircraft to the airport. As such, they will waive landing fees for a year for such an aircraft thought to be worth around £1,000,000.