A pair of US start-ups with plans to electrify regional aviation are partnering to bring their emerging low-emissions technologies to a “broad customer base”. 

Southern California’s Surf Air Mobility and Virginia-based Electra disclosed a “bilateral agreement” on 15 February that includes early delivery positions for 90 of Electra’s hybrid-electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft, to eventually be deployed throughout Surf Air’s regional network. 

“Electra stands out as one of the early market leaders in regional air mobility, and we’re excited to bring them onto our platform,” says Stan Little, Surf Air’s chief executive.

Surf and Electra

Source: Electra and Surf Air Mobility

Electra’s “blown-lift” eSTOL will be deployed as part of Surf Air’s existing fleet of regional aircraft, the companies say 

”Their innovations around hybrid-electric, short take-off and landing aircraft — which can essentially take off and land on a football field-sized space — will unlock tremendous opportunities within the changing landscape of regional air mobility,” he adds.

Under the deal, the start-ups will develop route networks using Electra’s proposed eSTOL, which is designed to seat two pilots and nine passengers.

The company claims the eventual production aircraft will – thanks to its “blown-lift” design – be capable of taking off on a runway as short as 45m (150ft) and reaching speeds of 322km/h (200mph). Electra intends to begin delivering aircraft to customers at the end of the decade, barring delays in development and certification. 

The co-operation will also involve a leasing partnership intended to provide financing and software tools to “lower the barrier to entry” for small, resource-strapped regional operators. 

”Surf Air is the preferred lessor and provider of Electra eSTOL aircraft to Surf Air customers under its aircraft-as-a-service leasing programme,” the companies say. 

Publicly traded Surf Air, which owns Florida-based commuter carrier Southern Airways Express and Hawaii’s Mokulele Airlines, plans to de-carbonise its incoming fleet of Cessna Grand Caravans with in-house electric and hybrid powertrain technology. 

Surf Air holds orders for 100 total Cessna Caravans – with options for 50 additional aircraft – and an agreement to be Textron’s exclusive provider of “certain battery-electric and hybrid-electric powertrain technology for the Cessna Grand Caravan”. 

Electra claims a pre-production order book of more than 2,000 aircraft, with a total market value exceeding $8 billion, which the company says ”underscores strong interest from a broad array of flight operators across diverse markets”.

However, many provisional orders are not binding and could go undelivered.