Aviation Going Electric
Flights to and from islands are typically a very short distance and ideal to put the new Hybrid-electric aircraft to the test. Ampaire, Inc, a startup based in Hawthorne, California, plans to redefine and demonstrate hybrid-electric planes by establishing a commercial route in Maui, the second-largest island of Hawaii. The route mirrors a current one served by Mokulelu Airlines as a 28-mile journey and will be around 15 minutes in each direction.
Ampaire will launch test flights between Kahului Airport in central Maui and Hana Airport on the east side of the island with the support of Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit startup accelerator based in Honolulu and in partnership with Mokulele Airlines.
The company has taken a twin-engine Cessna 337 Skymaster and modernized it to include one conventional combustion engine and one of Ampaire’s electric motors. This retrofitted design is known as the Electric EEL and it will cover a range of approximately 200 miles, including reserves. Ampaire conducted their first public test flight of the Electric EEL on June 6th over Camarillo, California. According to the product manager, the test flight went as expected.
By the end of 2021, Ampaire intends to receive a supplemental certificate from the FAA for the Electric EEL. As one of the selected of Elemental Excelerator’s portfolio companies, Ampaire received up to $1 million in funding because the team considered the Electric EEL the right aircraft to be introduced to Hawaii at the time.
“We targeted electric aircraft companies in our last round because our analysis indicated it was the right time for the market,” said, Ramsey Siegal, the managing director at Elemental Excelerator. “With the expectation that regulatory frameworks governing electric air travel will come into focus globally, we wanted to support a near-term solution to satisfy flight-time requirements, charging infrastructure, and other commercialization elements so they are ready to scale the moment the FAA landscape enables them to do so.”
Ampaire’s goal for the Electric EEL to be FAA certified by 2021 was a deciding factor for the Elemental Excelerator to give their support. “We were specifically excited about Ampaire because of their approach of retrofitting existing airplanes, rather than building an entirely new electric aircraft that could be years away. Ampaire’s partnership with Mokulele Airlines is going to help make commercial electric flights a reality far faster than many people think.”
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