Eviation, which has been developing a nine-seat, all-electric commuter airplane prototype named Alice, appears to be closing in on its first flight.
“Charged up for the weekend,” said an August 12 post on Eviation’s Twitter account, showing Alice parked in front of a hangar in Moses Lake, Washington. The tweet offered no hint of precisely when the flight might take place. An Eviation spokesperson told FLYING Monday that Alice remains on track to make its first flight “this summer”—which, by the calendar, officially ends September 22.
Testing for the carbon-fiber, fly-by-wire, twin-motor, battery-enabled aircraft moved to Moses Lake in May, following months of ground tests at Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO) north of Seattle—where Alice’s first flight was originally planned.
— Eviation Aircraft (@EviationAero) August 12, 2022
Meanwhile, the team surrounding Alice continues to grow. Last month at England’s Farnborough International Airshow, Parker Aerospace announced it will be developing several technology system packages for the aircraft. Parker and Eviation have begun “entering the design phase” for the aircraft’s eventual production and certification. Parker named six technology system packages it plans to develop for Alice, including:
- Flight control system, consisting of sidestick, throttle, rudder control, and various switches
- Electromechanical flap system
- Thermal management
- Hydraulic powerpacks
- Vibration and noise mitigation
- Sealing solutions
Powered by twin, rear-mounted magniX650 electric motors, Alice has garnered much attention across the nascent electric aircraft industry, as the Israeli startup attempts to develop and bring to market a viable, fully electric airplane for regional cargo and passenger missions.
First unveiled at the 2019 Paris Air Show, Alice is designed to seat nine passengers and two pilots. It’s proposed to have the following specs:
- Maximum cruise speed: 250 knots
- Range: about 440 nm
- Maximum takeoff weight (MTOW): 16,500 pounds
Eviation had been hoping to conduct Alice’s first flight late last year, but the company said the COVID-19 pandemic and bad weather pushed testing and preparations into 2022.
This year, the project has undergone two key leadership changes, including the departures of chairman Roei Ganzarski in January and Eviation co-founder Omer Bar-Yohay, who stepped down as the company’s CEO in February. Shortly before his departure Bar-Yohay told FLYING he expected Alice’s first flight was “days away.”
After Gregory Davis took over as interim CEO, he offered a general explanation about the moving timeframe for first flight: “Part of it is continuous optimism,” Davis said. “Things come up. That’s why you test.”
Under Davis’s leadership, Eviation said it had begun a safety board review of the aircraft, before the project moved to Moses Lake.
How Alice Got Its Name
Inspired by the Lewis Carroll fantasy novel, the name Alice serves as a homage to Alice in Wonderland. Back in 2016, when Eviation was new, Bar-Yohay was working while Jefferson Airplane’s song White Rabbit was playing in the background. He started calling the project Alice, and “the name just stuck,” he told FLYING.
Eviation intends to certify Alice under Part 23 for airworthiness.
“It’s the first Part 23 aircraft that’s all fly-by-wire,” Bar-Yohay told FLYING in January. “It was a very, very painful aspect of the development of this system. It makes the system much more complex and it takes a long time and a lot of money to do this right.”
Company officials have said they expect the airplane to earn FAA type certification in time to enter service in the 2025 timeframe.
In April, Eviation and Cape Air expanded its original 2019 agreement to become Alice’s launch customer, signing a letter of intent to buy 75 of the new aircraft models, pending certification and production. The Massachusetts-based regional carrier’s fleet currently includes Cessna 402s, Britten-Norman Islanders, and Tecnam P2012 Travellers. Germany-based DHL announced last year an order for 12 cargo variants of the aircraft.
A Regional Electric Commuter Airliner
Eviation is one of several companies hoping to successfully develop an entirely new form of air travel enabled by electric batteries. If all goes as planned, supporters say Alice could become a vital part of a zero-emission travel ecosystem.
Development of a viable electric airliner could lead to the establishment of zero-emission regional air passenger routes. That, in turn, could influence the commuter airline system, which is currently dominated by hub airports.
Bar-Yohay said in January that the lion’s share of air travelers are only interested in flying to destinations under 300 nm, but the current system forces them to fly hundreds of miles out of their way to transfer at a hub.
“Think about how ridiculous that is,” he said. “If we can compete on both the price per seat mile and we can win hands down on the environmental aspects, and we don’t have to go so far—or so big—why would you fly anything else?”
“Long term,” he said, “this will be everywhere.”