Los Angeles-based Ampaire has announced the successful maiden flight of its eight-seater Eco Caravan, the first in a series of hybrid electric aircraft planned by the company to help carriers transition to sustainable aviation.
The 33-minute flight of a converted Cessna Grand Caravan took place at Camarillo Airport in California, reaching an altitude of 3,500 feet. Currently the Eco Caravan can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 70% and will improve on this figure when using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The Eco Caravan is an upgrade of Cessna’s Grand Caravan and as the battery pack is located in a body fairing there is no reduction in passenger capacity and payload capability. In addition, the plane will have a range of over 1,000 miles, which exceeds the range of other proposed all-electric, hydrogen-electric and even other hybrid-electric designs.
Ampaire is hoping to obtain supplemental type certification (STC) for the Eco Caravan by 2024, the process being appreciably simpler and quicker than normal as the aircraft does not need to go through a full aircraft certification programme. Once operational, Ampaire will look to scale-up the hybrid propulsion system, with a goal to see it operating within single-aisle airliners.
The Eco Caravan can recharge its batteries in flight or at a charging station, on the ground. However, as charging infrastructure will be limited for some years, the ability to operate independent of ground charging is crucial for preserving the full utility of the Eco Caravan. At MRO Europe in October, Ampaire announced a relationship with Air France Industries KLM Engineering and Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) for a range of worldwide maintenance service and support activities. Additionally last month, Ampaire confirmed it has received an order from MONTE, a financier of sustainable regional aviation technologies, for up to 50 Eco Caravans.