The Anonymous Widower

Watch First Electric Caravan Fly

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on AOPA.

As AOPA is the Aircraft Owners And Pilots Association, the caravan is a Cessna C208B Grand Caravan, which has been converted to electric power.

I have flown in a Cessna Caravan in Kenya, where it took me from Nairobi Airport to the Maasai Mara.

It is a typical workhorse all over the world carrying up to nine or thirteen passengers or freight.

  • They have a single turboprop engine.
  • The undercarriage is fixed and very sturdy.
  • Around 2,600 had been built by 2017.
  • It is used by a variety of operators.

I would certainly be happy to fly in one at any time, unlike some aircraft I could mention.

This paragraph from the article details how the maker of the electric motor;magniX is involved in electric flight.

The Grand Caravan is to be the largest, but not the first commercial aircraft magniX has converted to fly with 100 percent electric power. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, wrote in an email exchange that the de Havilland DHC–2 Beaver first flown in December continues its test flight program in Canada. Harbour Air, a short-haul air carrier with a fleet of seaplanes, is working with magniX to convert its fleet to all-electric power, and the same 750-hp electric motor that will power the upcoming Grand Caravan flight has been performing well in test flights over British Columbia.

Ganzarski is quoted as saying he is pleased with results to date.

The aircraft is lined up to make its first flight on May 28th, which hopefully will be shown on the Internet.

My flight in Kenya was only about half-an-hour and despite the Caravan having a range of nearly 2,000 kilometres, I suspect that many flights in the aircraft are of similar duration.

A Quick Battery Size Estimate

  • 750 hp is 560 kW.
  • So a half-hour flight on full power will use 280 kWh plus whatever is needed for aircraft systems like avionics, heating and air conditioning.
  • The Eviation Alice electric aircraft seats nine passengers and has a 900 kWh battery according to Wikipedia.

I  would suspect a 900 kWh battery should allow the Electric Caravan to do two half-hour trips.

The Future Of Electric Aviation

It is interesting to note, that four of the projects in designing and building a viable electric aircraft are in this nine-seater segment.

Note.

  • All except Eviation Alice, are conversions of proven high-wing aircraft with a fixed undercarriage.
  • Moderately large fleets available for conversion. – Beaver (1,600 plus built), Caravan (2,600) and Islander (700)
  • Conversion only needs a Supplemental Type Certificate, rather than full certification.
  • The DHC-2 Beaver prototype first flew on the day I was born, so it can’t be all bad.

A detailed insight into the reasons and the economics of converting an existing fleet of aircraft are given in a sub-section called Development in the Wikipedia entry for Project Fresson.

  • Scottish Airline Loganair appears to be the launch airline and will use the plane for their short flights around the Orkneys.
  • Several companies are involved in the development.
  • First flight is aimed for 2021.
  • Conversion kits could be available in 2022-2023.
  • It is hoped that operators would get a return on their money for the kit in 2-3 years.

Once they get the design right, there is talk of a nineteen-seat electric airliner.

I can see hundreds of converted electric Caravans and Islanders flying short routes by 2030.

 

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Airbus On Electric Flight

This page on the Airbus web site is all about electric flight.

This paragraph greets you.

Today, zero-emission flight is closer to reality than ever. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion is rapidly revolutionising mobility technologies across industries, from automotive to marine. And the aviation industry is no exception. Airbus is committed to developing, building and testing electric and hybrid-electric future technology that will enable the aviation industry to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions of commercial aircraft.

A read of the whole section is recommended.

A lot of technology will need to be improved even to get say a 60-seat airliner, with a 500 mile range.

  • Design-changing efficient aerodynamics.
  • Lightweight, strong structures.
  • Efficient zero-carbon propulsion systems.
  • Batteries with a much higher energy capacity per kilogram of battery weight.

It’s a tough ask, but I believe it is possible!

We might even see some very unusual ideas. And some proven ones.

Catapults

Naval fighters are usually literally thrown into the air from aircraft carriers using aircraft catapults, which traditionally were steam-powered. Gliders are often towed into the air using a rope.

So could something similar be used to accelerate the aircraft to flying speed?

Taxiing And Take-Off Using A Tug

All taxiing would use a battery-electric or hybrid-hydrogen-electric tug to minimise use of energy from the plane’s batteries.

Could the tug be combined with charging and a vehicle to handle the catapult launch?

  • A fully-charged tug would meet incoming aircraft and tow them to the terminal.
  • The aircraft would use the tug for power, if it was low.
  • At the terminal, the tug and aircraft would be charged, during passenger unloading and loading.
  • On the taxi to the runway, all power would be provided by the tug.
  • The catapult system, would attach to the tug on take-off.
  • Once take-off speed was achieved, the aircraft would disconnect and climb away under its own power.

All the power for acceleration to take-off speed would be provided on the ground and the aircraft wouldn’t have to carry it.

Energy Calculations For An Airbus 220-100

The smallest Airbus aircraft is the A220-100, which has the following specification.

  • Passengers – 135
  • Maximum Take-Off Weight – 63.1 tonnes
  • Cruise speed – 871 kph
  • Take-off speed – 220 kph (estimated)
  • Ceiling – 41,000 ft.

Note that the design cruise speed of the nine-seat electric Eviation Alice is 482 kph at 10,000 ft.

Using Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator, the following values are obtained.

  • 220 kph – 32.7 kWh
  • 482 kph – 157 kWh
  • 981 kph – 513 kWh

As the kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed, I would expect that a small electric airliner would have a cruise speed slower than current airliners.

I would expect that Alice’s cruise at 482 kph and 10,000 ft., could have been chosen to get a decent range for the maximum size of battery.

The aircraft will also have to be given potential energy in the climb.

Using Omni’s Potential Energy Calculator, the following values are obtained.

  • 5,000 ft. – 262 kWh
  • 10,000 ft. – 524 kWh
  • 41,000 ft. – 2148 kWh

I would expect a small electric airliner  would fly a lot lower.

A 135-seat electric airliner, which is the same weight as an Airbus 220-100 and cruising at 482 kph and 10,000 feet would need the following energy to establish itself in the cruise.

  • Kinetic energy – 157 kWh
  • Potential energy – 524 kWh
  • Take-off energy at 220 kph – 32.7 kWh

Which gives a total of 681 kWh.

It should be noted that both the kinetic and potential energies are proportional to the maximum take-off weight. Assuming that take-off weight would be proportional to the number of passengers, rough estimates for the battery size needed.

  • 25 – 126 kWh
  • 50 – 252 kWh
  • 75 – 378 kWh

As Wikipedia says the smaller nine-seater Eviation Alice has a 900 kWh battery, I feel that at least a fifty passenger electric airliner is possible.

Very Efficient Aerodynamics

One of the biggest losses of energy will be due to less-than-perfect aerodynamics, with vortices, eddies and skin friction wasting precious energy.

Look at the pictures on the Internet of the Eviation Alice and you’ll see a strange aircraft.

  • A very pointed nose.
  • Two propellers at the wing-tips.
  • A third propeller at the tail.
  • I suspect, all the propellers are placed to get the most out of the power.

When Alice is cruising, her energy consumption will be minimal, so that the maximum range for a given battery size can be obtained.

Any electric airliner will draw on all the aerodynamic tricks in the book.

Efficient Flight Profiles

The longest flight, that I ever did in my Cessna 340A was from Southend to Naples.

  • Before take-off at Southend, the fuel bowser followed me to the end of the runway to give me a last-second top-up.
  • I travelled across France on a beautifully-clear day and the accommodating Lyon ATC allowed me to fly at 19,500 feet all the way to French Coast at Nice.
  • The French then decided that, as I was happy at that height, they would hand me over to the Italians without a change of level.
  • So I flew down the Italian coast past Genoa and Rome at 180 knots, with spectacular views all the way.
  • The Italians, then used radar to vector me on to final approach at Naples.

I reckon, I had flown nearly a thousand miles in if I remember correctly about six hours.

But it was a very efficient flight profile to get the range.

  • I took the maximum about of fuel, I could carry.
  • I climbed as fast as possible to an efficient cruising level.
  • I cruised at an efficient speed.
  • I used very little fuel on the descent and landing into Naples.

I certainly was pleased, that I had about another hour’s fuel left, when I arrived in Naples.

Electric aircraft will probably always fly efficient profiles, to get the maximum range. But they will all be calculated by the plane’s computer system.

Most Aircraft Are Heaviest At Take-Off

This is because they burn fuel in the engines, as they fly along.

But a full battery weighs the same as an empty one, so the electric aircraft will have the same flying characteristics in all stages of the flight.

This could have design and operational advantages.

Hybrid Propulsion

Some electric aircraft designs are hybrid, with both battery and turboprop power.

It still cuts carbon emissions and may give better performance.

Fuel created from biomass can also be used.

Conclusion

I expect to fly in an Aubus battery-electric short-haul plane between London and Geneva by 2030.

But I’m certain, I’ll fly before that in an electric aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

May 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

GKN Aerospace Joins Eviation Alice Electric Plane Project As Work Continues After Fire

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article filed under Engineering News on the IMechE web site.

This is the interlocutory paragraph.

Electric plane pioneer Eviation has signed a collaboration agreement with GKN Aerospace for the design and manufacture of wing, tail assembly and electrical wiring interconnection systems for its Alice aircraft.

It is very matter of fact, but does the tie up signal good news and progress, after the prototype Eviation Alice was destroyed in a fire?

As a disruptive innovator and one-time pilot, I like the Alice.

  • The performance, in terms or passenger capacity, speed and range match a market, where money could be made.
  • The propulsion system makes the most of up-and-coming technology.
  • I suspect that the unusual shape allows some efficient aerodynamics to work.
  • Some people might put their money down on a ride in space. A ride in an electric aeroplane would satisfy me.

I think, the Alice could be the first electric plane I ride in.

And the tie up with GKN, makes my dream more likely.

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Flying Taxi Start-Up Raises $240m From Existing Investors Led By Tencent

The title of this post, is the same as that as this article on the Financial Times.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Lilium, a German flying taxi start-up, has raised $240m from existing investors led by Chinese technology group Tencent to fund the next stage of its growth.

The article has a picture of the Lilium Jet, which looks to be an interesting design.

  • It is an electric VTOL aircraft.
  • Power comes from no less than thirty-six electric motors driving ducted fans.
  • The fans will tilt for take-off and landing.
  • Maximum speed will be 190 mph, with a cruise of 170 mph.
  • Range will be 300 kilometres or 186 miles
  • Total installed power is 320 kW.
  • Less than 150 kW will be needed for cruise.
  • A MW (?) battery will be fitted according to Wikipedia. Do they mean MWh?
  • It can carry two passengers with five from 2025.
  • Empty weight is 440 Kg.
  • Maximum take-off is 640 Kg.
  • Initially, it will have a pilot, but the aim is for a completely autonomous aircraft.

Lilium aims to run a city-to-city taxi service starting in 2025.

I have a few thoughts.

Aerodynamics

There have been a lot of developments in aerodynamics in the last few years and the Lilium Jet and other electric aircraft like the Eviation Alice take full advantage of the developments.

So don’t expect electric aircraft to look convectional, unless perhaps they are an electric-engined conversion of an existing conventional aircraft!

Structure

The structure of aircraft is getting lighter and Airbus and Boeing with the 787 Dreamliner are showing what is possible.

Will an empty weight of 440 Kg be possible? Especially, if that includes the battery.

The Wikipedia figures allow a payload of 200 Kg. That must be only two passengers.

Power

Wikipedia talks about a one MW battery, but I suspect they mean one MWh, as this is the unit of battery capacity.

In Sparking A Revolution, I quoted Hitachi’s predictions and suggested that they could have a five-tonne battery, that held 15 MWh by 2035.

This would mean that a one MWh battery would weigh 333 Kg.

This must be near to the target weight of the battery needed to power a Lilium Jet.

But a one MWh battery that weighs just 333 Kg. would be a tough ask given the limitations of today’s battery chemistry.

Fire

Wikipedia says this about a fire.

The first prototype was destroyed by fire during maintenance on 27 February 2020.

As the Eviation Alice also suffered a fire, are these aircraft pushing batteries too hard.

Conclusion

I am sceptical about some of the figures quoted for the Lilium Jet in Wikipedia.

When I see the following.

  • A Lilium Jet in the air, taking-off and landing.
  • Two passengers flying in the aircraft.
  • A Lilium Jet on a set of scales.

I’ll revise my opinion.

There is this video.

Obviously, I’m doing something wrong in my calculations.

March 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

‘Total Loss’ Feared After Fire Reportedly Damages Eviation Alice Electric Plane Prototype

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Engineering News page of IMechE.

It’s not what you call a flying start!

Even-Boeing had problems with the batteries on the Dreamliner.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Will Flybe Survive?

This article on the BBC is entitled Flybe Boss ‘Focused’ On Turning Airline Around.

This was the start of the BBC article.

Flybe boss Mark Anderson has told staff that he and the management team remain “focused” on turning the airline round.

Mr Anderson’s comments came in an email to staff following reports that the airline is in crisis talks in an attempt to put together a rescue deal.

According to Sky News, Flybe, which has already been bailed out once, has been struggling to secure fresh finance.

So will the airline survive?

A Wake Up To Money Discussion

At 0530 this morning, the BBC Radio 5 Live program discussed Flybe with Lord Adonis, who is a former New Labour Transport Minister giving his fourpennyworth.

The following suggestions and observations were made.

Air Passenger Duty Be Scrapped For Domestic Flights

This has been suggested and it is thought it would give Flybe several tens of millions of pounds of aid.

The feeling was that it wouldn’t be illegal under EU law and it looks like it could be the solution.

But it would apply to all domestic flights within the UK and I can’t see BA, Ryanair and easyJet accepting, this to be available only to Flybe.

It would also cost the Government a lot of tax and why should I as a non-flyer inside the UK have to pick up the tab in other ways?

Certain Flights Could Be Directly Subsidised

To get to some parts of the UK, flying is necessary and under EU rules, essential flights can be subsidised directly.

The programme mentioned that Newquay flights are subsidised and those to Derry could be.

Other Airlines Would Take Over Profitable Routes

This is the law of the jungle and it has always been so.

A Radical Solution

Consider these facts.

Flybe’s Routes Tend To Be Shorter

As examples, Flybe flies.

  • Aberdeen to Belfast–City, Birmingham, Cardiff, Durham/Teesside, Humberside, London–Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Wick
  • Birmingham to Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey, Knock, Paris–Charles de Gaulle and Stuttgart
  • Exeter to Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, London–City, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Paris–Charles de Gaulle.
  • London City, to Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Edinburgh, Exeter and Jersey.
  • Manchester to Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Exeter, Hanover, Isle of Man, Jersey, Knock, Luxembourg, Lyon, Newquay, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Southampton and Stuttgart.

Most if not all of these flights are under 500 miles.

Flybe Flies A Lot Of Smaller Aircraft

The backbone of their fleet is the Dash 8 Q 400, of which they currently have 54 in service, making Flybe one of the largest operators of the type.

  • They are powered by two turboprop engines.
  • They seat 78 passengers.
  • They have a cruise speed of 400 mph.
  • They have a range of 1,200 miles.
  • They can fly into city centre airports like London City and Belfast City.

In my view, they are an ideal aircraft for their shorter routes, with shorter runways and stricter noise restrictions.

Flybe Makes A Lot Of Places Accessible

Boris said this morning on the BBC, that we need regional connectivity and Flybe is part of the solution.

Northern Ireland would fare badly if Flybe ceased to exist, until alternative airlines provided the flights.

London And Edinburgh Is A Rail Journey

Over the last few years, more and more of my friends travel by rail on this route rather than flying.

Why?

  • Trains are now virtually every half hour.
  • Trains go between city centres.
  • Prices are generally comparable.
  • The trains and service has improved.
  • One friend takes her dog.
  • The journey time is getting closer to four hours.

In the next couple of years, there will be more services and journeys will be faster.

But go beyond four hours and train travel is not so attractive, so there will always be a need for regional flights to the North of Scotland, the South and South-West of England and other places where trains are not convenient.

Noise, Pollution and Carbon Emissions

These are aviation’s three main environmental problems and although Flybe’s core fleet is mainly turboprop, they are still not totally environmentally friendly, although they are better than the smaller jets, of which Flybe use a few.

CrossCountry Trains

Several of Flybe’s routes are mirrored by some of the services of CrossCountry Trains.

CrossCountry uses exclusively diesel trains and these will surely be replaced by bi-mode or hydrogen-powered hybrid trains to take advantage of the electrification, where it exists.

A revitalised CrossCountry could take advantage of Flybe’s troubles to increase revenue.

Eviation Alice And Other Electric Aircraft

Eviation Alice and other electric aircraft are on the way.

Within ten years, there will be an electric aircraft that meets this specification.

  • All-electric operation
  • At least twenty passengers
  • A range of 500 miles
  • A half-hour turnround for an hour’s flight.
  • Low noise.
  • No pollution or carbon emission.

Eviation Alice will show the way with a first flight this year.

Note that their first customer is Cape Air, who are a very successful feeder airline in New England.

I am confident of my prediction because the maths and physics, say it is possible.

I also feel that the might of Airbus is the one to watch!

  • They have much to lose at the small end of their market.
  • They are very strong in aerodynamics and lightweight structures.
  • easyJet are reportedly behind the project.

It should also be remembered, that their rival Boeing has too much on their plate.

The Short Term Solution

The short term solution must be to keep Flybe functioning, as the economic damage to far-flung regions will be far greater than the cost of keeping the airline flying.

But it must be done legally and within the rules, as the large profitable carriers have access to some of the world’s best lawyers.

I can see the following happening.

A reduction in Air Passenger Duty for domestic air travel.

Government subsidies for essential routes like those to and from the North of Scotland, Northern Ireland and remoter parts of England and Wales.

BA, Ryanair and easyJet using their lawyers to get equal treatment.

The Long Term Solution

The long term solution will undoubtedly depend on electric aircraft, when they meet the following criteria.

  • Sufficient range and passenger capacity.
  • Sufficient support infrastructure at airports.
  • Full certification
  • Overcoming the scepticism of the general public.

I feel that the first electric aircraft will be about nine-ten seats and they will build up from there and that thirty seat aircraft will be flying in ten years.

They will start on thin routes, where the number of passengers are low.

The government could encourage the fast adoption of electric aircraft, by abolishing all Air Passenger Duty for electric flights.

What would that do for an airline’s marketing and the environment?

Conclusion

Electric aircraft will be one of the factors , that will ensure the survival of regional airlines like Flybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Magnix Revs Up Electric Motors For Harbour Air Seaplane Flight Tests In December

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Geek Wi8re.

The article explains a lot about the state of play in the electric aeroplane market, with two examples possibly starting commercial service in the next few years.

MagniX are the company, who build the electric motors and surely, efficient, lightweight motors are key to flying electric.

November 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

All Electric Plane Startup Eviation Aircraft Secures Orders For 150 Units

The title says it all on this article on Nocamels.

Feeder airlines seem to believe in Alice!

I do think, that this is one of the most exciting ideas in development.

November 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Orders For A New All-Electric Airplane Now Top 150

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Bloomberg.

This looks to be a very positive article as Eviation Aircraft now have more orders for the all-electric Alice aircraft.

This is a couple of paragraphs from the article.

Talks are underway with a fourth possible client in Australia, while the CEO has previously said that prospective customers include major U.S. carriers like United Airlines Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., which are interested in planes to feed their hubs.

The U.K. also represents a natural market, given its relatively small size and plethora of regional airports, Bar-Yohay said. The Alice would be well suited to Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s Connect arm — previously Flybe — which has an average flight time of 55 minutes. The executive was appearing with Virgin founder Richard Branson and CEO Shai Weiss at a technology conference.

I hope the second paragraph is true, as flying in an all-electric aircraft is definitely on my bucket list!

I would feel that if the aircraft does well, then this experience would translate to France.

 

October 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Exclusive Interview: Eviation’s Co-Founder And CEO Omer Bar-Yohay

The title of this post, is the same as that as this article on Helicopter Investor.

As the title says, it is an interview about the Eviation Alice, with the CEO of the company behind the project.

It contains some interesting answers.

The Market

Omer Bar-Yohay made these points.

  • The US, where 70 percent of General Aviation happens.
  • Some interest from regional operators struggling with low margins. Have Eviation got the performance, range and capacity, in line with what regional operators can afford?
  • They were surprised to see the size of interest from freight operators.

Later he says that the current version can handle 2,400 pounds of freight, which is just over a tonne.

What is the value of a tonne of small packets, specialist seafood, agricultural product or medical supplies?

Autonomous Flight

The regulators or the market are not ready for it.

VTOL

There are a lot of other players , ideas and money looking at this.

Focused

Eviation Air seem to be very much focused on getting their plane in the air and to market.

Conclusion

If nothing else, Eviation Air seem to be a professional company and they have carefully researched what their unusual plane can and will do.

Transport is liberally sprinkled with odd ball ideas, that took advantage of radical thinking to create world beating products.

Consider the De Havilland Mosquito, Douglas Skyhawk, Hawker-Siddeley Harrier and Issigonis’s Mini.

There are also several absolute duds around, because companies got the technology wrong.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment