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Surf Air makes moves in hybrid-electric commercialisation
AeroTEC and magniX will accelerate the introduction of Surf Air's electrification technology, while its acquisition of Southern Airways and a merger with Tuscan Holdings will provide resources to bring it to market.
Regional air travel that saves time, money, and the environment.
Read this story in our June 2022 printed issue.

US online booking platform Surf Air Mobility (SAM) has entered into contracts with electric aviation propulsion company magniX and aircraft development and integration company AeroTEC to develop and certify hybrid and fully-electric powertrains for new and existing Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft. These aircraft will be designed to reduce operating costs and emissions and greatly improve the affordability of regional air mobility.

SAM plans to develop STCs for its proprietary electrification solutions, powered by magniX electric propulsion units (EPUs). AeroTEC will provide engineering, testing, programme management and certification expertise to support design, development and FAA certification.

“AeroTEC's capabilities, deep experience in design, engineering and programme management of certification of STCs are well known. magniX is a leader in the development of aircraft electric propulsion systems and innovation. AeroTEC and magniX are perfect partners for SAM to accelerate electrification of Cessna Grand Caravans and to lead the new era of green flying,” says co-founder and CEO Sudhin Shahani.

magniX and AeroTEC have already successfully flown a fully-electric Cessna Grand Caravan 208B, the eCaravan. SAM is designing its initial hybrid electric Cessna Grand Caravans to have the same flight range capabilities as its fully combustion counterparts, with no need for any charging infrastructure, which will allow it to utilise the hybrid electric aircraft across its own existing network, connecting more airports with direct flights and building a regional mass transport platform to sustainably connect communities across the US. SAM also intends to make hybrid electric powertrain upgrades available to fleet owners on and off its consumer platform, as well as license its technology to OEMs for new aircraft types.

SAM further intends to upgrade existing combustion turboprop aircraft already in service by installing its powertrains in existing Caravans, reducing direct operating costs and emissions.

“Working with Surf Air Mobility will accelerate our shared vision of electrifying air travel and realise the benefits of an electrified Cessna Grand Caravan within the next few years,” says magniX chairman Dominique Spragg.

SAM's STC to install the hybrid electric magniX solution is expected to create a path for magniX's existing pipeline of approximately 50 Grand Caravan aircraft.

With commercially available hybrid electric aircraft only a few years away, followed by fully-electric aircraft, the company believes that SAM, magniX and AeroTEC form the team to bring affordable, sustainable air travel to market as quickly as possible.

“We're at the beginning of aviation's next major evolution, and we're excited to help lead the industry forward with Surf Air Mobility,” says AeroTEC president and CEO Lee Human. “Our decades of experience bringing new aviation technologies to market will help accelerate the commercialisation of SAM's hybrid electric Cessna Grand Caravan and set the stage for the development of additional aircraft types.”

SAM has entered into a definitive agreement to merge with Southern Airways Corp, parent company of one of America's largest commuter airlines and its affiliated brand Mokulele Airlines. Southern Airways serves 39 cities across the Mid-Atlantic, Gulf South, Rocky Mountains, West Coast, New England, Hawaii and soon the Far Pacific. The merger will allow for scheduled routes and on demand charter flights operated by Southern and other third-party operators.

Surf Air Mobility intends to upgrade Southern's current fleet of nearly 40 Cessna Grand Caravans to hybrid electric aircraft. Cessna Grand Caravans are the most prolific aircraft in their category, with over 2,800 delivered.

“Southern Airways sees the regional routes between 50 and 500 miles that we're currently flying as the quickest, most practical solution for bringing electric air travel to market. We're excited to be a part of Surf Air Mobility's mission to electrify aviation and to bring sustainable innovation to market faster,” says chairman and CEO Stan Little, who will continue to run the airline post-merger and will serve as president of Surf Air Mobility.

“The addition of Southern Airways will allow us to more rapidly bring green flying solutions to real flyers,” adds Surf Air chairman Carl Albert. “Southern's fleet of Cessna Caravans will be the foundation for the next generation of aircraft as we upgrade the fleet to hybrid electric powertrains. Our first generation of electrified aircraft will meaningfully decarbonise aviation and help alleviate the environmental impact of flying by targeting emission reductions by as much as 25 per cent versus conventional propulsion systems.”

This agreement coincides with SAM's plans to merge with SPAC Tuscan Holdings that will result in it becoming a publicly listed company.

"Surf Air Mobility's practical approach to scaling the decarbonisation of aviation is built on a base of tangible revenue, industry-leading electrification technology and significant growth prospects for the future,” says Tuscan Holdings’ Stephen A Vogel. “Surf Air Mobility's management team is first class, and with its leadership we have confidence this transaction will enable the company to reach its true growth potential.”

“Surf Air Mobility is positioned to bring benefits to consumers quickly while creating opportunities for the entire aviation industry. Our hybrid electric propulsion technologies will be the building blocks upon which reduced operating cost and green aviation can be realised,” says SAM’s Albert. “We're thrilled to be merging with Tuscan as it shares our ambition of advancing the future of flight for the good of people and the planet.”

The proposed transaction is expected to provide up to $467 million in gross cash proceeds to SAM, including committed capital from strategic and financial investors such as iHeartMedia and Partners For Growth, and an equity line from Global Emerging Markets (GEM), as well as from Tuscan's cash in trust.

The boards of directors of both SAM and Tuscan have unanimously approved the proposed business combination, which is expected to be completed in the second half of 2022.

The mergers are also conditional on the closing of the acquisition of Southern.

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