VoltAero this week began flight testing the hybrid-electric propulsion system for its new Cassio family of fixed-wing aircraft. On October 11, the Cassio 1 technology demonstrator took off from the company’s base at Royan-Medis Airport in southwest France, with the new unit installed in pusher configuration in the aft fuselage, while a pair of Safran’s ENGINeUS 45 electric motors were installed in forward-facing “puller” configuration on the wings.
The French company’s propulsion system combines three 60-kW electric motors, which are arranged in a triangular “barrel” configuration with a 370-hp internal combustion engine and drive a five-bladed propeller. It has been using three of Safran’s 45-kW motors to log 25 flights and 14 hours in the testbed aircraft, which is derived from the Cessna 337 Skymaster.
The company is on schedule to achieve its objective of having the four- to 10-seat Cassio family of aircraft certified under EASA’s CS-23 rules to enter service in late 2022 or early 2023, according to VoltAero CEO and chief technology officer Jean Botti. The production model will be a single-pusherprop design based entirely on what VoltAero calls its “power module” that is expected to be able to fly almost 750 miles at up to 230 mph.
VoltAero technical director Didier Esteyne piloted the first flight of the Cassio 1 demonstrator. “I felt very comfortable with its performance from the first takeoff,” he commented. “The power module provides a real propulsive ‘kick,’ and I look forward to opening the aircraft’s flight envelope.” The VoltAero team plans to step up flight testing over the next few weeks and is expected to report further progress on October 21.
In May, VoltAero announced plans to offer three variants of the Cassio, which will feature a distinctive aft main wing, a tail boom, and a canard. In addition to the Cassio 600 (with a 600 kW propulsion system), there will be a four-seat Cassio 330 and a six-seat Cassio 480.
The aircraft is intended for various business and general aviation applications, including air taxi services. VoltAero says it will be able to take off and land with less than 1,800 feet of runway and be able to operate for up to 10 hours each day.
Jean Botti, who was formerly Airbus’s chief technology officer, founded the company. He led the European aerospace group’s E-Fan X electric aircraft program, which was abandoned earlier this year.