Electric propulsion start-up Ampaire has secured a launch order from air mobility firm WingTips for an initial 25 nine-seat Eco Caravans – a hybrid conversion of Cessna’s popular turboprop – in a deal that anticipates a huge follow-on deal for up to 225 aircraft.
Currently operating in Arizona, California and Nevada, WingTips sees the additional aircraft as required for expansion across the USA.
Its initial deposit-backed order covers five firm aircraft, plus 20 options, all for the Eco Caravan. However, the two companies say they “anticipate” a requirement for another 175 Eco Caravans, plus 50 examples of the 19-seat Eco Otter – a hybrid variant of the De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.
WingTips intends to use the Eco Caravans on regional routes of 86-350nm (160-650km) for both on-demand charter and scheduled operations.
Ampaire carried out the first engine runs on the Eco Caravan using a “preliminary drivetrain configuration” in April 2022 and plans to fly the aircraft in the second half of the year; US supplemental type certification is targeted for 2024.
WingTips intends to place the aircraft into service as quickly as possible after certification.
“The Eco Caravan will redefine operating cost through its extreme efficiency,” says WingTips founder and chief executive Mike Azzarello.
“Our objective is to close the gap with the cost of driving while cutting travel time up to 75% percent.”
Ampaire says the Eco Caravan will be able to carry up to eleven passengers or 1,130kg (2,500lb) of cargo.
Previously Ampaire was pursuing a merger with California-based mobility provider SurfAir but unexpectedly terminated the agreement in April this year.