Ampaire has begun ground tests of a Cessna Grand Caravan equipped with the US developer’s hybrid-electric propulsion system.

Dubbed the “Eco Caravan”, the modified aircraft is expected to make its first flight in the second half of 2022.

Ampaire Eco Caravan

Source: Ampaire

Initial ground power runs at Hawthorne airport in Los Angeles were an “initial validation of the system’s operation”, Ampaire says.

Ampaire intends to validate the hybrid-electric system through a supplemental type certificate. It expects the Eco Caravan to be ready for service entry by 2024.

It claims that fuel savings of between 50-70% will be achievable against the standard turbine-powered Grand Caravan, while still able to carry nine passengers or cargo.

Cessna lists the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered Grand Caravan as having capacity for 10-14 passengers and a range of 1,070nm (1,982km).

“Powering up a new propulsion system, one that is fully integrated into a flyable aircraft, is a tremendously exciting milestone for Ampaire,” says chief executive and co-founder Kevin Noertker.

“We expect the Eco Caravan to be the first in a series of hybrid-electric upgrades for a number of aircraft models that will transform the industry by lowering emissions and costs.”

Ampaire’s website refers to a future programme it calls the Eco Otter SX – a hybrid-electric conversion of the 19-passenger De Havilland Canada DHC6 Twin Otter.

The firm has previously flown a pair of modified Cessna 337 Skymasters with one of their two engines replaced with a battery-powered electric motor.