Pilot-training group Airways Aviation will collaborate with hybrid-electric aircraft developer VoltAero in the development of its Cassio family of aircraft. Under a memorandum of understanding signed on June 25, the two French companies agreed that to work together to develop plans for using the four-, six- and 10-seat Cassio 330, 480, and 600 models for scheduled and on-demand flights in southern France.
Airways Aviation, which is based at Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport, also intends to use the fixed-wing Cassio aircraft to develop pilot-training courses for electric aircraft. It intends to develop a flight simulator for the type and also build a syllabus to include topics such as airports and ground infrastructure.
VoltAero’s French launch customer intends to buy 15 of the Cassio aircraft, with deliveries due to start in 2023. The agreement did not specify which version of the aircraft family Airways Aviation will receive. In July 2020, U.S. on-demand flight provider Kinect Air committed to acquiring between 10 and 20 of the Cassio aircraft.
The deal was signed during an event called “For a Quieter and Cleaner Sky,” which include a flight by VoltAero’s Cassio 1 technology demonstrator. VoltAero said that it aims to complete type certification under EASA CS-23 rules by early 2023. It started flying the technology demonstrator earlier this year and has also been approved to receive up to around €13.1 million ($15.7 million) in funding from the European Union’s Green Deal Strategy and Recovery Plan.
The company, which was founded by former Airbus chief technology officer Jean Botti, already has partnerships with airport infrastructure group Edeis and aerostructures specialist Sonaco. It intends to construct the Cassio aircraft at a purpose-built final assembly line in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of southwest France, where it is based. Partners in North America and Asia may be offered the chance to produce the aircraft under license in these regions.
According to VoltAero, it expects to produce around 150 aircraft per year and pricing will be, "in line with equivalent single piston engine aircraft that are on the market today." The Cassio 330 will feature a combined power rating of 330 kW, and this increases to 480 kW and 600 kW for the larger members of the family.
The aircraft will feature three of Safran’s Engineus 45 electric motors and a 370-hp internal combustion engine, collectively driving a five-bladed pusher propeller. Its projected range is up to around 750 miles and with a speed of around 230 mph.
Airways Aviation has more than 30 years of experience in training pilots and ground operations staff. In 2019, it expanded its operation through the acquisition of French aviation training organization Ecole Supérieure des Métiers de l’Aéronautique.
“Our mission at Airways Aviation is to train, educate, and shape a new generation of industry professionals, and we do it in a socially responsible manner so this is a natural partnership with VoltAero,” said the company’s president, Mauro Calvano. “As we believe VoltAero’s Cassio will be a game-changer, we also are looking at the potential for air taxi operations with the aircraft in beautiful southern France and the Mediterranean area.”