The Long and Winding Path to Successful Demonstration Flights in the UK
By Susan Ying, SVP of Global Operations
Finally, we are flying in Scotland! The hybrid-electric Ampaire Electric EEL has been flying this past week between Wick on the northern Scottish coast and Kirkwall in the remote Orkney Islands, normally accessible mainly by ferry across the sometimes choppy Pentland Firth. In the EEL It’s about a 10-minute flight between airports.
The enthusiasm of the local population has been inspiring. They would be thrilled to have air service in this type of low-cost, low-emission aircraft. The ferry ride is limited to a certain time schedule, availability, and it takes 1.5 hours, while a hybrid-electric regional aircraft could certainly improve on convenience and also the fare. Everyone seems to know about our activities — in fact, a local scooped the BBC, publishing images of the EEL captured from her back yard and posting them to Facebook.
Kirkwall is home to the SATE program — Sustainable Aviation Test Environment, a Scottish effort to advance low-emission aviation. Scotland’s transport minister spent the day with us and told the press: “The Kirkwall test center and companies such as Ampaire put Scotland at the forefront of the transition to low-carbon aviation.” The British media has been intensely interested, as you can see from this BBC broadcast.
I’ll admit to having had some stressful days coordinating the logistics of getting the EEL over here from Los Angeles and into the air. Here’s a brief rundown on the circuitous odyssey of N337EE:
The aircraft was crated and shipped from Los Angeles on May 13th. It was supposed to have shipped earlier on the container ship NYK Delphinus, but our shipping date slipped and we ended up on NYK Deneb instead. That ended up being a stroke of good luck as the Delphinus experienced a fire that could have destroyed our container and its valuable contents.
The Deneb made multiple stops on its way through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic, ending up in Rotterdam. Our container was then trans-shipped to Wick, arriving there July 19. The delightful Wick fire brigade supplied the muscle to carry wings out of the container and position for reassembly. N337EE has been disassembled and reassembled twice now (previously for demos in Hawaii), and we’re getting pretty good at that procedure.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority took some time to grant a certificate of airworthiness for our experimental aircraft, which made us anxious to get flying. Then there were weather delays — imagine that, a lot of rain and fog visits these far north latitudes. We had to scrub our planned-air-to-air shoot, which would have been spectacular, featuring coastal sights such as the famous Old Man of Hoy, a 449-foot natural rock pillar. Oh, well.
To our utter relief and delight, the sun broke through on August 12th for our official first flight to Kirkwall — indeed, we had crystal clear blue skies. For all the earlier complications, the EEL is flying beautifully and making an impression on regulators, airports, airlines, and the public here. So all the challenges have absolutely been worth it.
Today we start flying southward to the very other end of the UK, where we’ll demonstrate the aircraft in the Ampaire-led 2ZERO program.
More to follow.