Following in the Footsteps of Giants
Why we conduct public demonstrations of our hybrid-electric aircraft
Once the Wright Brothers had a reliable flying machine that could stay in the air for long durations and fly graceful figure-eight patterns, they took it on the road. In 1908, they astounded French crowds flying long routines over Le Mans, in one instance a two-hour, twenty-minute flight. They made 129 flights in France, demonstrating the robustness of their aircraft.
In 1908 and 1909, they flew before huge crowds outside of Washington, DC, including President Taft, members of Congress and the military. The Wright Brothers were believers in demonstrations — to popularize their invention and also to refine it through regular flight activity. Doing so in the public eye added to the incentive to make the Wright Flyers more capable and reliable.
Ampaire couldn’t have better role models. Last year, we flew our second Electric EEL aircraft daily on a round-trip airline route in Hawai‘i, sometimes twice a day over three weeks. This year we are preparing for a series of demonstration flights along regional airline routes in the UK. We’ll work with regional airline Loganair to fly between Exeter and Cornwall Airport Newquay in South West England, plus an over water leg between Wick and Kirkwall in Scotland. These Electric EEL flights begin in the summer. We’ll do more than demonstrate the aircraft, however. With partners in industry and academia (Rolls Royce Electrical, University of Nottingham, Loganair, regional airports, power companies) we’ll study the entire ecosystem needed to make electric aviation a sustainable reality.
Infrastructure is just one part of that ecosystem. If you’ve followed the debate on how to build out charging infrastructure in the US for electric cars, there is a similar debate for charging electric regional aircraft. Would it be easier and more efficient to charge swappable battery packs, or to charge the aircraft directly, especially given the desire for quick turn times? And how to adapt the energy grid for higher voltage to airport charging stations? With our partners,
we’ll study technologies, route structure, passenger demand and a multitude of other factors bearing on a shift to electric aviation.
Later in this program, which is partially funded by the UK’s Future Flight Challenge, we’ll demonstrate a one-megawatt hybrid electric upgrade of the Twin Otter, our Eco Otter SX, for which Rolls Royce Electrical is developing the electric power unit and battery system. The more we fly with airline operators the more we learn about real world requirements and the better we are able to assess the robustness of our technology. Also, when we operate in these real word conditions, we see a greater embrace of electric aviation from industry, government and the public.
I look forward to keeping you posted on these UK activities.
-Kevin Noertker, CEO & Co-Founder of Ampaire