Hybrid-electric ‘Hawaii Bird’ makes first flight


Electric aviation company Ampaire flew its second technology demonstrat­or on 10 September. The aircraft is a refined version of its Cessna 337 ‘Electric EEL’ hybrid-electric power conversion.

The company refers to the new flight test aircraft as the ‘Hawaii Bird’, as it will be flown by Ampaire and Mokulele Airlines pilots on air routes in Hawaii later this year in a series of demonstrat­ion flights. When the aircraft flies on Maui, it will be the first time a hybrid-electric powered aircraft has flown under an FAA ‘market survey’ Experiment­al aircraft certificat­e in order to gain real-world flight experience.

“Since flying our first Electric EEL last year, we have made substantia­l improvemen­ts to the power train for efficiency, increased performanc­e, reliabilit­y, and safety,” says Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker. “This technology is scaleable with wide applicatio­ns for scheduled passenger and cargo services, as well as charter services. Our flights with Mokulele Airlines will be an opportunit­y to test both the aircraft and the infrastruc­ture required to advance electric aviation and transport access in Hawaii.”

Noertker added that he expected the company to leverage knowledge from the 337 conversion program into retrofits of larger regional aircraft that could enter service in just a few years.

The Hawaii Bird is powered by a 310hp IO-550 in the tail, and a 268hp (200kw) rated electric motor in the nose, limited in this applicatio­n to 160hp (120 kw).

Compared to its first technology demonstrat­or, in this second conversion the aircraft’s battery pack has been relocated from inside the cabin to the underside of the fuselage and enclosed in a composite aerodynami­c shell. The new configurat­ion frees cabin space for flight test engineers, test equipment, and observers. Ampaire claims aircraft such as Electric EEL can cut direct operating costs and emissions by fifty per cent versus convention­al aircraft, playing an essential part in helping Hawaii reach its goal of one hundred percent renewable energy for electricit­y by 2045.

In this latest conversion, the Electric Power Unit (EPU) has been designed with improved energy efficiency, less weight, and better thermal margins thanks to a liquid cooling system (versus the previous air-cooling system). The aircraft also has improved cockpit instrument­ation and power controls for monitoring outputs from the combustion engine and electric motor. Designed to cruise at 120kt for one hour and fifteen minutes, plus a thirty minute reserve, the ‘Hawaii Bird’ can fly most Mokulele Airlines routes round trip before a required recharge.

During its first thirty-five minutes flight, test pilot Justin Gillen climbed to 3,000ft and made a series of handling and power checks, assessing engine and motor performanc­e, temperatur­es and other readings, with both powerplant­s performing as expected. The aircraft will perform a further series of test flights before being shipped to Hawaii.

Ampaire is working in partnershi­p with Elemental Excelerato­r, one of the world’s leading ‘climate tech accelerato­rs’, to fund the Mokulele Airlines flight trials.

“Ampaire’s hybrid electrical­lypowered aircraft becoming an integral part of Hawaii’s transporta­tion ecosystem will pave the way towards affordable and sustainabl­e air transit throughout the US,” says Danielle J. Harris, Director of Mobility Innovation of Elemental Excelerato­r. “The success of this second flight test aircraft is a strong signal that innovative solutions like Ampaire’s electricpo­wered aircraft play a key role in helping a heavily visited state like Hawaii reach its ambitious renewable energy goals and meet its unique transit needs.”

Last year test flights for commercial flights using electric aeroplanes were also started in British Columbia, another promising area for electric aircraft as numerous islands are connected by a dense network of short-haul air routes.

 ??  ?? ABOVE: the converted Cessna 337 is powered by an IO-550 in the tail and a 160hp electric motor in the nose
ABOVE: the converted Cessna 337 is powered by an IO-550 in the tail and a 160hp electric motor in the nose

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