Ravn Alaska today announced it intends to operate 50 of Airflow’s planned hybrid-electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft. According to Airflow, this takes its order book to a value of more than $200 million, and it has not confirmed the identity of other launch customers who have signed letters of intent.
The Anchorage-based regional airline will use the aircraft for both freight-carrying and passenger operations. California-based Airflow is aiming to get what it is currently referring to as Model 200 certified and ready to begin commercial operations in 2025.
As shown on its website, Airflow is working on two versions of its proposed aircraft, both of which could be operated by a single pilot. Ravn Alaska has indicated that it intends to have eight to 10 passenger seats in the larger model, which will have a 2,000-pound payload, 500-mile range, and the ability to land and take off from just 200 feet of runway. A smaller model would have a 500-pound payload, 2500-mile range, and be able to operate from just a 150-foot runway.
“As a regional operator, we are committed to serving the many large and small communities of Alaska,” said Ravn Alaska founder Rob McKinney. “That means we are constantly seeking out new ways to deliver the best value and experience for Alaskans. With Airflow, we benefit from new capabilities the aircraft offers that open up new and different destinations, the constantly improving efficiencies of electrification, and alignment between our fleet and the rising demands of our customers to travel with the smallest carbon footprint possible.”
In January, Airflow will use a Cessna 210 to develop a technology demonstrator. The California-based startup will remove the six-seater model's single piston engine and replace it with a distributed electric propulsion system.
VerdeGo Aero is providing its hybrid-electric powertrain for the fixed-wing aircraft. The combined propulsion system is expected to deliver a 35 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared with conventional turbine engines.
Earlier this year, the company conducted flight-testing a subscale model to develop flight-control technology. Having completed more than 200 flights with this model, the engineering team began working on an autopilot system.
According to Airflow, its aircraft will be able to operate from existing ground infrastructure and faces a straightforward path to type certification based on its conventional fixed-wing architecture. In the longer term, the company—which includes five former members of Airbus’ Vahana eVTOL aircraft development team—intends to introduce autonomous flight capability for the eSTOL aircraft.
“From logistics carriers to passenger airlines we hear loud and clear that demand is on the rise,” said Airflow co-founder and CEO Marc Ausman. “The Airflow team has designed, built, and flown new capabilities to their fleets that are flexible, cost-effective, and carbon neutral. The Airflow team has designed, built, and flown new aircraft on rapid timescales together before, and now we’re applying those learnings to an aircraft that will improve operating economics for airlines and contribute positively to reducing aviation’s carbon footprint.”