Surf Air Mobility (SAM) this week signed a $450 million facility with Jetstream Aviation Capital to fund the planned growth of SAM’s turboprop fleet. In an October 11 announcement, Jetstream, a U.S. leasing group specializing in commercially operated turboprop regional aircraft and engines, also agreed to purchase up to 250 hybrid- and all-electric propulsion systems for existing aircraft from SAM.
Los Angeles-based SAM will gain access to the financing facility over the next six years for both new and used Cessna Caravan and Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, subject to separate binding purchase and lease agreements for each individual aircraft.
Jetstream intends to take delivery of the 250 hybrid and fully electric powertrains from SAM over the course of five years, subject to FAA certification and the negotiation of pricing terms and the minimum commitment and definitive documentation.
SAM plans to first concentrate on scaling operations using the Cessna Grand Caravan, which would become the first aircraft electrified using the company’s hybrid electric powertrains. The company, which until earlier this year was partnered with Ampaire, hopes to prepare the conversion for commercial certification by 2025.
SAM’s plans to install a MagniX hybrid-electric propulsion system under development in partnership with modifications and aircraft modification specialist AeroTec in the Grand Caravan. Aerotec said it will now support efforts to bring the modification to market under a supplemental type certificate (STC) that it will own.
Under its agreement with MagniX and AeroTec, SAM would develop the STC for what the company described as its “proprietary electrification solutions,” based on the MagniX powertrain, which has already flown on a Grand Caravan 208B technology demonstrator. AeroTec will act as program manager for the STC development, providing engineering, testing, and certification expertise.
“We believe the customized aircraft leasing structure from Jetstream will provide us a capital-efficient way to more rapidly expand our operations at the scale necessary for a future when electrified aircraft unlock the latent demand for convenient, affordable regional travel on new routes across the U.S.,” said Sudhin Shahani, founder of SAM. “Jetstream's proven record of leasing aircraft in this asset class at scale, especially for the Cessna Grand Caravan, will help strengthen Surf Air Mobility’s position in the regional mobility and turboprop category.”
According to SAM, the hybrid-electric Caravans will emit 50 percent less carbon than the current aircraft and could reduce direct operating costs by up to about 25 percent. The company maintains that taking the hybrid step to reduce carbon will allow aircraft to operate at several thousand currently underserved U.S. airports without requiring a big investment in electric charging infrastructure.
Jetstream maintains long-standing relationships with Southern Airways Express and Mokulele Airlines, two companies that have entered into definitive agreements to be acquired by SAM, subject to closing conditions and regulatory approval.