Electra Aero has unveiled the test vehicle for its hybrid-electric ultra-short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft, the first of its kind, marking a significant milestone in Electra’s mission to help decarbonize aviation and revolutionize urban and regional transportation. The bright yellow aircraft is named the Electra Model EL-2 “Goldfinch” in celebration of the beloved, nimble American Goldfinch bird indigenous to North America.
Electra’s eSTOL technology demonstrator (TD) is the world’s first blown lift aircraft using distributed electric propulsion, which enables the airplane to take off and land in very short spaces. Electra’s proprietary blown lift technology uses eight motors to provide additional wing lift, and hybrid-electric power that provides internal recharging capabilities for aircraft batteries, eliminating the need for new ground infrastructure.
The two-seat piloted TD aircraft showcases the Electra eSTOL technology at full scale and will be flown this summer in an extensive flight test program to track performance and inform the design of Electra’s 9-passenger production aircraft. The company conducted a fully integrated test of its proprietary hybrid-electric propulsion system last year.
“In the three years since we founded Electra, we’ve designed our eSTOL aircraft, validated our blown lift technology with a sub-scale demonstrator, and run a fully integrated test of our 150-kilowatt hybrid-electric generator at full scale,’’ said John S. Langford, Founder and CEO of Electra.aero. “Now we’re ready to test the entire system with this technology demonstrator aircraft. We can’t wait to fly this plane and show the world what our eSTOL aircraft can do.”
Electra’s future eSTOL production aircraft plans to deliver the operational flexibility of a helicopter with the safety and economics of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Electra plans to fly a prototype of the 9-passenger production aircraft in 2025, with certification and entry into service in 2028 under FAA Part 23 regulation. Electra has designed the eSTOL aircraft so that hydrogen or battery-electric propulsion systems can be used in the future when those technologies are commercially viable.
“Electra was founded to build electric aircraft that make sense,” added JP Stewart, Electra Vice President and General Manager. “We are meeting market demand for cleaner, cost-effective aircraft that can fly people and cargo closer to where they want to go, and this technology demonstrator aircraft will prove that our eSTOL technology makes that possible.”
Electra currently holds letters of intent from more than 30 customers for over 1200 of its 9-passenger production eSTOL aircraft, totaling more than $4 billion in market demand. The company recently won a $30 million U.S. Air Force funding award as part of a larger $85 million funding effort. The aircraft was rolled out at Electra’s development facility at the Manassas, Virginia Regional Airport in a ceremony that included guests from the aviation industry, government, the investor community, and Electra customers.
Why it’s important: This announcement from Electra marks a significant milestone in the company’s mission to help decarbonize aviation and revolutionize urban and regional transportation. Further, it sends a signal to Electra’s customers that the program is progressing toward its planned delivery milestones and thereby maintains customer confidence.