Hybrid airplane makes history, completing 40-minute test flight on one charge

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 4:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - High in the sky over Maui, a hybrid-electric aircraft made history.

The twin-prop plane was the first electrified airplane to complete a test flight on a commercial airline route, flying from Kahului to Hana and back.

“It’s about a 20 -minute flight each way, so 40 minutes round-trip. all done on a single charge,” said Kevin Noertker, CEO of Ampaire.

The aviation innovation company developed the plane that runs off an electrical system and combustion engine. Ampaire calls the aircraft the Electric EEL.

It was tested in California before it came to the Valley Isle.

“Overall this plane has flown over 45 times and I think over 50 flight hours without any issues,” Noertker said.

The test flights on Maui run through December and are being done under the FAA’s Experimental-Market Survey that allows Ampaire to fly with a crew and essential personnel on a route used by Mokulele Airlines.

The carrier plans to be the first in the sky with this technology.

“We intend to be the first in the country to put passengers on hybrid-electric aircraft. And these guys are leading the technology revolution in that sphere,” said Stan Little, CEO of Southern Airways and Mokulule.

Ampaire is partnering with clean tech firm Elemental Excelerator to have hybrid-electric airplanes ready for the commercial market by the end of 2023.

“For the industry to see that the plane is in the air is a huge signal to the rest of the industry and all of its players that this is a possibility,” said Danielle Harris, Elemental’s director of mobility innovation.

Noertker said hybrid-electric aircraft are perfectly suited for short distance flights like the Kahului-Hana route. Ampaire believes hybrid-electric is the first step to airplanes that operate exclusively off battery power.

“That is where we ultimately want to be. But much like the automotive industry you need to begin in a pragmatic way,” Noertker said.

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