Ampaire is one step closer to testing electric aviation in an operational airline environment. Before their flight trials with Mokulele Airlines on Hawaii, the Hawthorne, CA, company performed a test flight with its second technology demonstrator. The Hawaii Bird, as the company calls it, is the second, refined iteration of its Electric EEL, a Cessna 337 modified to use a hybrid-electric propulsion system. Mokulele Airlines will use the aircraft for a series of demonstration flights on Maui later this year. It will be the first time an electrically-powered aircraft will fly under a “market survey” experimental aircraft certificate by the FAA. They will do so to gain real-world flight experience with electric technology.
Since flying our first Electric EEL last year, we have made substantial improvements to the power train for efficiency, increased performance, reliability and safety. This technology is scalable with wide applications for scheduled passenger and cargo services, as well as charter services. Our flights with Mokulele will be an opportunity to test both the aircraft and the infrastructure required to advance electric aviation and transport access in Hawaii.
– Kevin Noertker, Ampaire CEO
The Hawaii Bird is a twin-engine aircraft just like the original Cessna 337, with one driving a pull-propeller, and the other driving a push-propeller mounted behind the cabin in between the tail booms. In the rear, the Hawaii Bird features a conventional combustion engine, a Continental IO-550 producing 231kW. The front propeller is powered by an electric motor capable of delivering 200kW, although the power is limited to 120kW in these tests. The battery pack is contained in an aero-optimized shell that is carried on the underside of the fuselage. It is designed so that the Hawaii Bird can fly for 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus a 30 minute reserve, at 120 knots, allowing it to fly most routes in Mokulele Airlines’ offering round trip before needing a recharge.
The 35 minute test flight saw the aircraft climb to 3,000 feet and doing maneuvers for handling and power checks. Both powerplants performed as expected, with the temperatures and other readings staying within limits. The aircraft will perform a few more checks before being shipped to Hawaii in October.
Due to the conversion, Ampaire says the aircraft can cut direct operating costs and emissions by 40-50% when compared to a conventional aircraft. This helps Hawaii reach of goal of using 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2045.
Electric aviation is the future for the commuter airline industry, and through our partnership with Ampaire, we intend to be at the forefront of that innovation. These test flights hold the promise of expanding inter-island service by lowering costs while reducing our environmental footprint—both great benefits to the people of Hawaii . What we are doing today is what everyone will be doing someday.
– Stan Little, Chairman and CEO of Southern Airways, owner of Mokulele Airlines
Ampaire expects to be able to use the knowledge gained in the Cessna 337 conversion to retrofit larger regional aircraft that could enter service in a few years.