Ampaire Begins Airline Trials With Hybrid-Electric Aircraft

The company’s electric flight-test airplane is built around a Cessna 337 Skymaster.

The flight-test Skymaster’s front engine is a 160 kW-capable electric motor.Ampaire

Ampaire last month flew its Electric EEL aircraft on a 20-minute flight from Maui’s Kahului Airport across the island to Hana and back on a single battery charge. The company is now flying the route regularly in a one-month demonstration program with Hawai’i-based Mokulele Airlines, one of 15 airlines that signed a Letter of Interest with Ampaire. The company said in a news release, “The trials demonstrate electric aviation’s potential to reduce harmful emissions while also evaluating the robustness of Ampaire technology. The contribution of the electric power unit, fuel consumption means CO2 emissions are reduced by approximately 40 to 50 percent.”

Ampaire added, “This is the first use of a hybrid-electric aircraft under the FAA’s Experimental-Market Survey category, allowing Ampaire to fly with their crew and essential personnel for crew training and other exploratory market activity. The flight trials are supported by Elemental Excelerator, a global climate-tech accelerator.” The flight-test airplane is built around a Cessna 337 Skymaster with one engine in front and another in the rear. Ampaire’s modified the Skymaster by replacing the engines with a 300 hp piston powerplant in back and a 160 kW-capable electric motor in front, with a battery pack carried in an under-fuselage, aero-optimized shell.

For the flight trials, “the only change to ground equipment was the requirement to wire a Mokulele hangar with a 208-volt 3-phase outlet [for recharging]. Ampaire has been working with the Hawai’i Department of Transportation and the Hawaiian Electric Company to explore longer-term infrastructure solutions to support a fleet of hybrid- or fully-electric aircraft.”

Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker said, “Ampaire is focused on the regional market where we can provide viable range for typical routes. The average regional airline route in the U.S. is less than 500 miles. Upgrading today’s aircraft for electric power is a relatively low-cost, low-risk path to aircraft certification. Then we expect to move on to increasingly efficient and capable clean-sheet designs. UBS, the Swiss investment bank, forecasts a $178 billion market for hybrid-electric aircraft.”