Ampaire has launched demonstration flights of its hybrid-electric EEL aircraft between the UK’s Exeter and Cornwall airports as part of a series of government-backed trials to advance sustainable aviation technologies. The EEL is a modified Cessna 337 Skymaster with a front-mounted electric motor and conventional rear-mounted piston engine, a configuration that Ampaire said reduces emissions and operating costs by up to 30 percent.
The aircraft will fly between these two regional airports, which are 85 miles apart, using a combination of battery and piston power. Ampaire will be collecting in-flight data to monitor fuel savings, efficiency, and noise. Ampaire also heads a UK-based consortium created to explore regional electric aviation transport solutions.
EEL is being used by Ampaire as a research and development platform while the company develops hybrid-electric power systems for nine- to 19-seat regional aircraft, including for hybrid-electric conversions of Cessna Grand Caravans and Twin Otters. Ampaire views modifying existing turboprop aircraft with hybrid-electric systems as a first step to fully electric aircraft.
“We are pleased to see trials of innovative aircraft technologies that could improve the environmental sustainability of the aviation sector,” said Tim Johnson, director of the UK's Civil Aviation Authority. “The trials will enable the CAA to advance the safe and effective regulation of innovative services and products.”