Electric aviation propulsion company magniX has played a leading role in a pioneering all-electric flight, with a successful test of an electric-powered Cessna Grand Caravan 208B in Washington on Thursday morning (US time).
MagniX, in collaboration with Washington-based aerospace testing and engineering firm Aerotec, conducted the eCaravan flight powered by a 560kW magni500 propulsion system at a test centre at Washington’s Grant County International Airport.
The all-electric flight of the 9-seater eCaravan follows a previous test flight by magniX in December 2019 of a converted 5-seater DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver powered by the same 560kW magni500 system.
According to magniX, the 30 minute flight represents a world first for large all-electric planes, although it is a claim that might be contested by Swiss pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard who in 2016 completed a round-the-world flight in their 2.3 tonne Solar Impulse plane, a hair’s breadth heavier than the eCaravan’s empty weight of 2.145 tonnes.
It can be argued, however, that the eCaravan flight is groundbreaking because – unlike the sun-powered Solar Impulse – its flight is made possible solely by using energy that it carries in the form of battery storage, resulting in a gross weight of 3.629 tonnes.
According to Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, the eCaravan flight is also significant because of the commercial potential of the Cessna Grand Caravan.
“The iconic Caravan has been a workhorse of industry moving people and transporting goods on short routes for decades,” said Ganzarski in a statement.
“This first flight of the eCaravan is yet another step on the road to operating these middle-mile aircraft at a fraction of the cost, with zero emissions, from and to smaller airports. These electric commercial aircraft will enable the offering of flying services of people and packages in a way previously not possible.”
The groundbreaking test flight of the eCaravan serves as a critical step in the certification and approval process of the magni500 propulsion system, which will enable future conversions to power more aircraft with magniX’s all-electric propulsion technology.
The groundbreaking flight was livestreamed via Twitter – you can view the historic moment below (note, the video has been taken with a phone and you may need to click to fullscreen to see the entire flight):
— magniX (@MagniX) May 28, 2020
Of the flight, Lee Human, president and CEO of AeroTE said in a statement that “I’m proud of the pioneering work performed by our engineers, technicians and flight test team.”
“There’s no roadmap for testing and certifying electric aircraft – this is a new frontier and AeroTEC is on the front lines developing the processes and best practices that will pave the way for electric aviation.”
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Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.