Brazilian carrier Azul is exploring potential electrification of its Cessna Grand Caravans through a collaboration with US start-up Surf Air Mobility.
Los Angeles-based Surf Air said on 27 November that Azul will help develop its proprietary electric powertrain technology and accelerate its progress toward certification, while Azul hopes the agreement will lead it toward net-zero operations.
”We’re very excited to work with Azul to help us design our technology and define how our electric powertrains can best be deployed within an existing regional network in order for passengers to gain as much benefit from the technology as possible,” says Stan Little, Surf Air’s chief executive.
Surf Air has two business units. Its Surf Air Global division sells seats on small chartered aircraft that are owned and operated by partner companies. The company’s other business is developing hybrid-electric and all-electric Cessna Caravans, including through partnerships with aircraft maker Textron Aviation and certification specialist AeroTec. “The powertrain technology the company plans to develop does not yet exist,” Surf Air said in its most-recent earnings report.
Surf Air says it will work toward the “commercial deployment of electric Cessna Caravan within Azul’s existing fleet”, emphasising its intention to certificate its electric powertrain in 2026.
“In doing so, Azul and Surf Air Mobility hope to be a catalyst for change within South America and global leaders in regional air mobility,” the company says.
Surf Air and Azul will work on the technical and regulatory specifications of Surf Air’s electric propulsion system with the goal of upgrading Azul’s aircraft with the technology. The carrier operates 27 Caravans across an 80-city network in Brazil through regional subsidiary Azul Conecta.
Surf Air claims that its electric powertrain technology could potentially reduce operating costs 50% and eliminate “100% of direct carbon emissions”, which could have “profound impacts on how Azul operates its Cessna Caravan network”.
“We look forward to working together, designing the technology and integrating our electric motors into our fleet in an optimised way,” says Flavio Costa, president of Azul Conecta. “We believe that with this agreement signed, we can accelerate the certification process, ensuring a quicker and safer introduction of this revolutionary technology to the market.”
Little previously said Surf Air believes retrofitting existing Caravans with its in-development propulsion system is the fastest path to bringing electric aircraft to market, compared with designing new electric-powered aircraft.
The collaboration with Surf Air is not Azul’s first foray into the regional air mobility segment. In January, the carrier signed a letter of intent to order up to six of US powertrain developer Ampaire’s hybrid-electric “Eco Caravan” conversions.