Ampaire’s hybrid 9-seater takes to the skies

A nine-seat regional aircraft from the Californian manufacturer Ampaire with a hybrid-electric drive system has completed its maiden flight. The Eco Caravan, based on a Cessna Grand Caravan, has a hybrid propulsion system from Ampaire with an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

Thanks to a battery pack in the fuselage fairing, the passenger and cargo capacity of the original aircraft is retained. The maximum range of the Eco Caravan is over 1,000 miles or the equivalent of around 1,600 kilometres.

The first flight lasted 33 minutes to perform initial checks of the propulsion system. The aircraft climbed to 3,500 feet (over 1,000 metres) at full power, with the internal combustion engine and electric motor working together. Later, the power was throttled down to cruise level. This involved 200 minutes of testing different power settings to split between the two engines before initiating the landing approach.

“The Eco Caravan propulsion system performed just as expected,” test pilot Elliot Seguin said after landing. “It was smooth and quiet. All temperature and power output readings were normal.”

Ampaire is not entirely inexperienced: back in 2019, the Ampaire 337 took off on its maiden flight. This was a six-seat hybrid aircraft based on a Cessna 337 Skymaster.

The Eco Caravan’s propulsion system can be transferred to larger regional aircraft and eventually to single-aisle aircraft. Ampaire plans to rapidly introduce more powerful propulsion systems for larger aircraft, taking a building block approach. Ampaire is already working with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to certify the Eco Caravan in 2024 under a supplemental type certificate.

In October 2022, Ampaire received an order for up to 50 Eco Caravans from Monte, a financier of sustainable regional aviation technology. Also in October, the company announced a collaboration with Air France Industries KLM Engineering and Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M) for a range of global maintenance and support activities.

“Aviation is the hardest industry to decarbonize,” says Kevin Noertker, Ampaire’s CEO. “Fully-electric aircraft are range limited because of the weight and energy capacity of current-generation batteries. Hybrid-electric aircraft, however, can preserve the range and utility of today’s aircraft. That is why we are focused on hybrid-electric propulsion for a series of increasingly capable regional aircraft.” (maiden flight), (Monte order), (cooperation with Air France)


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