CAMARILLO, CA USA – 06 JUN 2019
Los Angeles-based startup Ampaire retrofitted a Cessna 337 aircraft with an electric powertrain, with the expectation of full commercial certification by 2021. The hybrid-electric aircraft took to the skies at Camarillo Airport, and it became the largest aircraft using electric propulsion to have ever flown.
“Ampaire is moving towards clean, quiet and lower-cost regional air travel,” said Kevin Noertker, CEO of Ampaire,“We see tremendous potential in our business model, and we’re excited to achieve this significant technical milestone.”
Ampaire claims that all of this is possible because they are using an aircraft that already has the approvals from the regulatory agencies, and that they are swapping out only one of the two piston engines to an all-electric engine. This mitigates risk during testing, with the second engine still able to run on fuel if required. The retrofit involves the removal of the rear motor, and the installation of an electric motor.
“Our Ampaire 337 is averaging 55% less fuel consumption than the normal twin piston version,” said Peter Savagian, SVP of Engineering at Ampaire.
The twin-engine plane is based on the six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster, and was retrofitted with Ampaire’s proprietary electric propulsion system and is powered by a lithium-ion battery system. The battery-powered electric motor replaces a combustion engine of the aircraft’s original two-engine configuration, and the resulting system is a ‘parallel hybrid’, meaning the internal combustion engine and electric motor work in concert to optimize power output as the plane flies. In hybrid configuration, the aircraft sees significant greenhouse gas emissions saving and operating cost reductions.
Scott Burgess and Edward Story, board members of the Eco-Aviation Foundation International, were impressed with the Ampaire exec team’s focus on the requirements of their current and committed customers to begin commercial service. Their move to the implementation and sales phase pushes the electric aircraft market closer to becoming mainstream in aviation.
Ampaire expects to get their retrofitted electric aircraft approved for commercial passenger flight much sooner than those developing electric airplane planes from scratch. The company announced that it has mapped a clear path from today’s first public test flight of a prototype to anticipating commercial operations in 2021. Thursday’s test flight follows the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) May 2019 airworthiness approval to begin a flight test program. The test flights will see the aircraft fly multiple times per week from June through August 2019 and will gather data about the electric propulsion performance characteristics.