Airflow will use a Cessna 210 aircraft to develop a technology demonstrator for its planned hybrid-electric eSTOL freighter. The California-based startup will remove the six-seater’s single piston engine and replace it with a distributed electric propulsion system. It will then use the aircraft to evaluate the short takeoff and landing performance on which it will base the business case for its planned air logistics service network.
In December, Airflow announced the selection of VerdeGo Aero to provide its powertrain for the fixed-wing design. The combined Jet A/battery pack hybrid propulsion system is expected to deliver a 35 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared with conventional turbine engines.
Airflow expects the as-yet-unnamed eSTOL design to need no more than 300 feet of runway for operations connecting cargo warehouses with distribution points in cities. The company intends to support so-called middle-mile services of between 50 and 300 miles.
Over the past 12 months, the company has been flight-testing a sub-scale model to develop flight-control technology. Having completed more than 200 flights with this model, the engineering team has been working on an autopilot system.
In its January 28 announcement, Airflow did not say when the adapted Cessna 210 airframe will be ready to start test flights. It has previously said that the first full-scale prototype of its planned eSTOL model would be ready to fly in mid-2023. The architecture for the aircraft will be confirmed following test flights with the technology demonstrator, but it is expected to have eight wing-mounted propellers.
“Selecting the Cessna 210 saves us the effort to design and build the pieces that already work, such as the cockpit, fuselage, and landing gear, etc.,” explained Airflow cofounder and chief technology officer Peter Kalogiannis. “We’ll concentrate on the rest to make it an eSTOL aircraft.”
Airflow was formed in 2019 by five former members of the Airbus team that developed the all-electric Vahana single-seat eVTOL technology demonstrator. It expects the eSTOL aircraft to be certified and ready to go into production in 2025.