The Largest Electric Aircraft Just Took to the Skies

Pack your bags - air travel just got a whole lot greener.

Jun 13, 2019

(Logra / Shutterstock.com)

Last week, aviation company Ampaire Inc flew the highest-capacity hybrid aircraft over California’s blue skies.

Due to its size, Ampaire 337’s flight was the first ever of its kind.  

The Ampaire 337 is a hybrid-electric airplane that is equipped with both a combustion engine at the nose and a battery-powered electric engine in the tail; the engines work in tandem in order to optimize power output.

The American carrier plans to launch commercial flights of its hybrid aircraft by 2021 and has a detailed plan to achieve that goal.

Last week’s first test was part of the Federal Aviation Authority’s airworthiness trial, which will allow the company to begin its flight test program. Between June and August 2019, the company will launch several flights per week to gather data about its performance- specifically regarding electric propulsion. By September, the company will begin pilot flights on a pre-production prototype in Hawaii, which will carry up to 9 passengers.

This is a historic moment for aviation technology, especially in the face of climate change.

“Ampaire is proud to lead the aviation industry in transportation electrification” declared Kevin Noertker, CEO of Ampaire “We recognize the importance of electric aviation for climate change and community connectivity.”

In addition to being significantly more eco-friendly, the hybrid aircraft is also expected to be quieter, cleaner, and even cheaper than conventional flights.

According to the company’s website, the difference between an electric aircraft and a fossil fuel aircraft is massive- and includes a 90% reduction in fuel costs, 50% reduction in maintenance costs, 66% quieter take-offs and landings, and 0% tailpipe emissions.

In 2017 global commercial aviation produced 800 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is why Sweden recently invented a word to socially shame the public from flying - flygskam. However, for many who live outside of Europe, flights are the most convenient way to see the world - a luxury many people are not quite ready to ditch.

While cutting down on air travel - hybrid or not - is an important way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the switch to electric aviation is a powerful step in a greener direction.

And California couldn’t be prouder to host this beautiful leap in cleantech innovation.

“Given the urgency of the climate crisis, today’s historic flight not only signifies a huge step forward for aviation, it also shines a light on Los Angeles’s leadership in transportation electrification,” said Matt Petersen, CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.

Until now, the transportation sector has generated significant GHG emissions. However, green technologies such as Ampaire’s, coupled with political and infrastructural changes that improve public transportation can reduce most of those emissions, leading us towards a cleaner future.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.

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