The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Electra was formed in early 2020 after founder John Langford left his previous company Aurora Flight Sciences, which he founded in 1989 and subsequently sold to Boeing. In November 2020, he confirmed that his growing team is working on a sub-scale technology demonstrator for a planned, but as-yet-unnamed, hybrid-electric short-takeoff, and landing aircraft. The aim is to begin tests flights with this model as a first step to achieving type certification with a production aircraft before the end of 2026. 

Initially, the company is looking to produce a six-seat aircraft with a payload (for cargo-carrying purposes) of around one metric tonne (2,200 pounds). Initial financial support has come from investors close to the company founders and it has also completed a seed round with an undisclosed investor. The company says it has enough capital to complete flight testing with the technology demonstrator. 

Early concept drawings show a fairly conventional design with a high-wing and fixed landing gear reminiscent of numerous general aviation aircraft. On the wing, there are eight sets of propellers each of which is to be driven by an electric motor. The location of the conventional engine has yet to be determined, with Langford describing it as an auxiliary power unit. 

Electra believes that it will deliver a more cost-effective aircraft by focusing on STOL performance that far exceeds current expectations. It believes the aircraft will be able to takeoff and land in no more than around 300 feet, and possibly as little as 100 feet. It is also intended that the aircraft would be able to operate from so-called "unimproved fields" and so would not require officially designated runways. This should expand the scope for it to be used in rural areas for missions that could include last-mile delivery services. 

In late October 2020, supersonic aircraft developer Aerion announced a partnership with Electra. This envisages the Electra STOL aircraft being used to carry passengers to and from long-haul supersonic flights.

Timeline

Projected

type certification granted

Type certification and service entry
Projected

test flight

Test flights of sub-scale technology demonstrator

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Electra.aero has a strong leadership pedigree in the stellar team put together by unmanned aircraft pioneer John Langford, mainly drawn from the aeronautical engineering department of his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Initial funding for its plan to develop a hybrid STOL aircraft is mainly based on "friends and families" investments, as well as some seed capital from an undisclosed investor. The company says this is sufficient to begin flight testing with a sub-scale technology demonstrator during 2021. Further fundraising will be required to bring the aircraft to market, as planned, during 2026.

The design concept for the as-yet-unnamed aircraft is based on maximizing the potential for short-take off and landing capability. Langford told FutureFlight the aircraft will be able to operate from just 100 to 300 feet, while delivering significantly more flexible performance compared with eVTOL aircraft with full-vertical capability. The relatively conservative design would appear to be low-risk from a certification perspective.

Key Personnel

John Langford is president and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences.
John Langford

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Founder

John Hansman

Board Member

Mark Drela

Board Member

Oliver Masefield
Oliver Masefield

Senior Manager

Marty Bradley
Marty Bradley

Board Member

Christopher Courtin
Christopher Courtin

Senior Manager