With a hybrid-electrically powered propulsion system, Ampaire’s twin-engine Cessna 337 Skymaster successfully completed the first public flight from Camarillo Airport in Southern California. The original Skymaster included an engine in front and one in the rear providing a push-pull thrust arrangement. The 337 also offered six seats and weighed approximately 4,700 pounds.
Ampaire replaced the rear engine with an electric powerplant but left the piston engine in place up front. The goal of the flight was to begin proving that an electrically powered six-place aircraft can operate at a much lower cost than one powered by fossil fuel. Even with just one hybrid-electric powerplant, the Ampaire 337 creates significantly less in greenhouse gases than a conventional engine.
While the company has offered few details about the aircraft, the 337 is believed to have a range of nearly 200 nm. Ampaire plans to begin more intensive flight testing of the 337 beginning this month in Hawaii. Those flights are expected to run through the end of the summer. Ampaire believes it could have a commercially viable electric propulsion system available by 2021.
This news comes with Airbus considering bringing the world’s 1st hybrid-electric plane to market because it weighs its strategy for replacement of the A320neo narrow-body jet within the next fifteen years. That would mark a technological leap for the aerospace industry.
Diamond Aircraft also has a DA40 aircraft that was reconfigured to support a hybrid electric powertrain. In this system set-up, one combustion engine is powering two independent electric drive systems consisting of one motor, battery and inverter each. Two electric engines have been added on a forward canard, which combined can generate 150kW of take-off power. The diesel generator is located in the nose of the aircraft and can provide up to 110kW of power. Two batteries with 12kWh each are mounted in the rear passenger compartment and act as an energy storage buffer.