WingTips, a California-based aerial mobility provider, has announced a firm order for 5 of Ampaire’s hybrid-electric propulsion Eco Caravan fixed-wing aircraft, with options for 20 more and expansion plans for around 175 total aircraft.
Above: Rendering of Ampaire’s Eco Caravan, able to carry up to 9 passengers and operate without electric charging infrastructure
Ampaire’s Eco Caravan is based on the Cessna Grand Caravan, retrofitting a hybrid-electric propulsion system onto the original Cessna 208B Grand Caravan body. With this adaptation, the aircraft is able to offer fuel savings of up to 70% on short-hop routes and over 50% on long-haul flights, while still carrying 9 passengers or 2500 lbs of cargo for up to 800 miles per flight.
The Eco-Caravan’s extreme fuel savings over traditional combustion aircraft has made it an excellent option for WingTips, a regional air charter company currently growing and operating in California, Arizona, and Nevada. According to a recent press release, WingTips plans to to use these new aircraft on regional routes of 100 to 400 statute miles, flying from general aviation airports.
WingTips, recently seeking to modernize its business with services, uses artificial intelligence to offer individual seats to on-demand charter passengers, as well as utilizing advanced floating fleet algorithms to optimize fleet usage according to customer demands. Essentially, this means that unlike airlines which have fixed schedules, WingTips offers flights that aggregate customer requests to find the best flight times and routes.
Above: A Cessna Eco Caravan being constructed and tested at Ampaire facilities.
WingTips hopes to utilize the Eco Caravan to both lower costs and expand its flight offerings. Said WingTips founder and CEO Mike Azzarello, “The Eco Caravan will redefine operating cost through its extreme efficiency. Our objective is to close the gap with the cost of driving while cutting travel time up to 75 percent. Working with Ampaire, we’ll be able to achieve this in a sustainable way. The Eco-Caravan operates within existing airport infrastructure, putting us years ahead of competitors that need major infrastructure investment in order to operate.”
Notably, Ampaire has already flight tested a smaller proof-of-concept aircraft, at one point using it to fly the longest route to date for an aircraft powered partially by electric propulsion. With many flight tests performed using this aircraft, named the ‘EEL‘, Ampaire has gained the expertise it needs to advance to larger aircraft. Currently, the company has plans to create aircraft that can carry up to 19 passengers or more.
Said Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker, “Ampaire and WingTips share a vision of reducing the cost and increasing the convenience of regional air travel while addressing a major source of harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The starting point for moving toward zero emissions is with low-emission hybrid-electric aircraft such as the Eco Caravan.”
Above: Tail-end photo of the Ampaire Eco Caravan
Why it’s important: By significantly lowering the fuel and operating costs of these regional fixed-wing aircraft, companies like WingTips and Ampaire can change the industry for short to medium distance transportation. As vehicles like the Eco Caravan continue to lower prices closer to those of traveling by car, demand for this regional transportation will grow immensely, creating excellent opportunities for both new companies to form and middle-tier companies to expand. Together, these innovations should make on-demand regional air travel a more common part of many people’s lives.
Source // Ampaire