Electric aviation pioneer Ampaire has secured a firm order backed by deposits for five of its low-emission, nine-seat Eco Caravan aircraft, plus an option for an additional 20. The buyer is WingTips, an innovative air mobility company operating today in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Both companies anticipate another 175 orders for the Eco Caravan as WingTips expands nationwide, plus 50 of Ampaire’s follow-on 19-seat Eco Otter aircraft.
WingTips plans to use these new aircraft on regional routes of 100 to 400 statute miles, flying mainly from convenient general aviation airports. The company uses artificial intelligence to offer individual seats to on-demand charter passengers, and advanced floating fleet algorithms to optimize fleet usage. The company also plans to offer scheduled service on higher-volume routes.
The Eco Caravan is Ampaire’s first commercial product. It is a Cessna Grand Caravan upgraded with a hybrid-electric propulsion system that retains the range and payload characteristics of the current Grand Caravan. The Eco Caravan can carry up to eleven passengers or 2,500 pounds of cargo.
The aircraft uses 70% less fuel on short trips and 50% less on longer trips with corresponding emissions reductions. When using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), emissions reduction is nearly 100%. Total operating cost reduction ranges from 25 to 40%, depending on route structure. The aircraft can operate independently of ground charging infrastructure by recharging the batteries in-flight when desired, as with hybrid-electric cars today.
Ampaire conducted the first Eco Caravan engine runs with a preliminary drivetrain configuration in April 2022, with plans to fly the aircraft in the second half of the year. The company is working with the FAA to achieve supplemental type certificate approval in 2024.