Daher continues to prepare the ground for a future hybrid-electric aircraft and will shortly fly the EcoPulse technology demonstrator for the first time using its electric motors.
Based around a TBM 940 airframe and its Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engine, the EcoPulse gains six 45kW Safran EngineUs electric motors on its wings, plus an Airbus-supplied high-voltage battery.
The battery will power four of the six electric motors while a 100kW auxiliary power unit supplies energy to the other pair.
While the EcoPulse has already flown to assess its handling characteristics following the integration of the electric motors and the rest of the distributed propulsion system, power has been supplied solely by the PT6 powerplant.
But, says Didier Kayat, chief executive of the French airframer, the project is now ready to move to the next phase having completed all the necessary ground and flight tests.
“The first electric flight will be in a couple of weeks in the south of France,” he told a pre-NBAA press conference on 16 October.
Daher and its partners have already “learned a lot” from the project, he says, including that it is “more complicated than we thought”.
Significant hurdles it needed to overcome included the interference on aircraft systems from the high-voltage energy system and how to install six electric motors “in a place where we store all the fuel in the wing”.
Daher in June this year announced plans to develop a hybrid-electric aircraft for service entry around 2027 and, says Kayat, the results of the EcoPulse flight-test effort will help the firm to “build the specification” of the follow-on programme.
However, he stresses that it is unlikely to look like the EcoPulse as that is “not a product, it’s a technology demonstrator”.
While the precise propulsion architecture will not be defined until next year, Kayat is clear that the aircraft will be built around one of its two existing products – the TBM-series high-speed turboprop or the Kodiak utility aircraft.
“We will need the best solution to demonstrate the hybrid plane and bring value to the customer,” he says.
Running on battery power alone the EcoPulse will have endurance of “less than one hour”, says Kayat; development of next-generation batteries will be vital if the airframer is to maintain its current timeline: “If we have the batteries we will have entry into service in 2027.”
Meanwhile, Daher is celebrating the delivery of the 500th TBM 900-series aircraft, a milestone achieved in just nine years.
Daher says the landmark aircraft, a TBM 960, was handed over earlier in October to an undisclosed customer.
Backlog for the TBM aircraft now stands at over 100 aircraft, around two years of production.