Aircraft developer Ampaire has begun ground testing the propulsion system on its first hybrid-electric Cessna Grand Caravan flight test aircraft.
The Grand Caravan, which the company has branded the Eco Caravan is the successor to Ampaire’s Electric EEL aircraft, which is a six-seat Cessna 337, modified with a hybrid-electric propulsion system.
According to Ampaire its Eco Caravan offers fuel savings over the original aircraft of up to 70% on short-hop routes and over 50% on long-haul flights, while still carrying 9 passengers or cargo. The aircraft can achieve an emissions reduction of up to 90% if using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The first ground power runs were conducted at Los Angeles’s Hawthorne Airport earlier this month and were an initial validation of the system’s operation. First flight of the Eco Caravan is expected to take place this year after June.
Ampaire will proceed with development of the Eco Caravan and the application for a supplemental type certificate (STC) for its hybrid propulsion system.
The Eco Caravan is the first hybrid-electric aircraft to enter the USA FAA’s certification process. The STC process can take much less time than certifying an entirely new aircraft, allowing a certification target of 2024.
Ampaire also plans to offer a hybrid-electric upgrade to current operators of existing Grand Caravans.
CEO and co-founder of Ampaire Kevin Noertker said, “Powering up a new propulsion system, one that is fully integrated into a flyable aircraft, is a tremendously exciting milestone for Ampaire.
“We expect the Eco Caravan to be the first in a series of hybrid electric upgrades for a number of aircraft models that will transform the industry by lowering emissions and costs.”