Where Can You Fly an Electric Aircraft Right Now?

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With Harbour Air having just completed a successful test-flight of the world’s first all-electric commercial aircraft, this article provides a succinct summary of current possibilities to enjoy electric propulsion as both a passenger and a pilot. The abbreviated answer to the title is: nowhere.

But that’s not entirely true. You can allegedly rent a two-seater Pipistrel Alpha Electro at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum in Compton, California. A full battery charge will give you 60 minutes of operating time at 85 kt cruise speed with 20 minutes final reserve for a total of 180 USD. Another 45 minutes of waiting will let you repeat the fun (there are two charging stations available) but not yet over densely inhabited areas (so, yes, literally just for fun).

This is the only practical implementation the Internet is discussing at the moment. The remaining list is under the “to be certified in the next three years” category:

  • On the simpler rent-for-training track, Bye Aerospace wants to have an electric trainer certified by the FAA and EASA by the end of 2021 with immediate delivery of its eFlyers (2 and 4) purchased by OSM Aviation training schools.
  • On the passenger side, Ampaire’s Electric EEL (a Cessna 337 Skymaster with modified propulsion) has been tested on Hawaii island hops since June 2019 and will be accessible for Mokulele Airlines’s passengers once it becomes FAA certified.
  • A serious electrification plan has been undertaken at Cape Air. It will replace a number of its 83 Cessna 402 twin-engine props in service with Israeli-built electric flyer Alice showcased at the Paris air show in June 2019. First flights are planned for the Martha’s Vineyard to Boston and New York to Nantucket routes. Passenger-free trials will go on till 2021 with full operational deployment planned by 2023.
  • Another large scale electrically-powered airplane deployment is being tested on the opposite US coast by Harbour Air. Australian engine modifier Magnix promises to electrify the DHC2 Beaver service first with test flights and then with operational approval in 2021. Then you can enjoy ultra short-haul electric fun in the Seattle Area. The successful inaugural test flight took to the sky on the 10th December 2019.
  • Several electrified possibilities may soon be available closer to Europe. Cranfield Aerospace Solutions has launched Project Fresson, a government-backed £18 million ($22 million) initiative to convert a nine-passenger Britten-Norman Islander (an aircraft used by Loganair for short interisland hops in Scotland) to hybrid-electric propulsion. 600 aircraft may one day become emission-free with initial 60 min flight duration possible leaving a 30 minute final reserve.

In the farther and much less certain future, Wright electric has teamed up with easyJet to fully electrify short haul 100+ passenger operations by 2027 (a nine-seater was to be tested in 2019). There was also Zunum which “ran out of cash“. Scylax is developing an all-electric 9 seater with Frisia Luftwerkehr, a small German airline operating to the East Frisian islands with Islanders, ready to test prototypes in the next three years (this list is by no means exhaustive).

In short, you might be better off waiting for a bit unless you have between 0,2 and 0,5 million USD to spare for an aircraft and an electric engine, as well as certification just for fun. Watch this website’s updates for news on availability.

Image Source: (Twitter/@HarbourAirLtd)

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