Following a 3,400 mile series of flights from southern California, a hybrid-electric aircraft developed by Ampaire landed successfully at Fairbanks International airport in Alaska on Sunday, 13 August.
This historic flight represents a major milestone in electric aviation; it is the first hybrid-electric aircraft deployment in Alaska, the first international hybrid-electric flight and the first hybrid-electric aircraft to gain both FAA and TCCA special airworthiness approvals. It's the furthest north any hybrid-electric aircraft has ever flown, enabled by the first-ever deployments of mobile electric aircraft chargers in Alaska and Canada.
“This first-of-its-kind flight reflects the monumental progress we have made in electrified aviation, and we're excited to continue deploying solutions that increase reliability, accessibility and cost savings for communities around the globe,” says co-founder and CEO Kevin Noertker. “At the end of the day, these projects are all about people; creating jobs and economic growth, increasing connectivity while decreasing costs, benefiting our communities and building our future together.”
Ampaire is a member of the Launch Alaska Portfolio and graduate of Launch Alaska's Tech Deployment Track, and developed the hybrid-electric aircraft with support from the US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Designed as a testbed aircraft for the deployment of high-powered electronics, inverters, motors and related systems, the aircraft is a retrofitted Cessna 337 Skymaster that now delivers 50-70 per cent fuel cost savings and 25-50 per cent maintenance cost savings.
“To enable low-cost, low-carbon transportation, we need to commercialise electrified aircraft technologies and realise the full potential of regional airports,” says ARPA-E director Dr Evelyn Wang. “If we rise to this challenge, we can connect Alaskans and all Americans to one another, transport goods and provide services including medical care. We can drive down the cost of travel and make it accessible for all communities. This historic trip is a milestone on the road to commercialisation, and ARPA-E is proud to support Ampaire's work to achieve the full potential of hybrid-electric and electric aircraft.”
To make its historic flight to Alaska, the Ampaire aircraft navigated wildfire smoke, rain and rugged terrain, and demonstrated expanded capability beyond previous deployments in California, Hawaii and the United Kingdom. Alaska businesses, research institutions, elected officials and other partners all collaborated to make the event possible, then gathered to welcome the aircraft to Fairbanks.
“Alaska is well-known for its innovation and discovery, so it's fitting that this groundbreaking hybrid-electric flight made history here," says Dr Erin Whitney, director of the Arctic Energy Office at the US Department of Energy. “We welcome clean energy adoption and cooperation as we continue to lead the way in the Arctic.”
“Tech deployments like this are key to advancing the energy transition, with immediate and long-term benefits for the communities they serve,” adds Isaac Vanderburg, Launch Alaska president and CEO. “Aviation plays a huge role in Alaska's economy and way of life, and we're so proud to help support companies like Ampaire as it develops solutions to decarbonise and advance one of our most vital modes of transportation.”