The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Bristow Places Deposits for Early Delivery of Electra's eSTOL Aircraft

Bristow Group has stepped up its plans to be the launch operator for Electra.aero’s hybrid-electric STOL aircraft by placing deposits to secure an initial five delivery positions. The agreement announced on Wednesday is based on a memorandum of understanding the helicopter operator signed with Electra in 2021. It covers a preorder for up to 50 of the aircraft, which will be able to carry nine passengers or cargo.

According to Bristow, it plans to deploy the blown-wing aircraft for passenger flights of between 50 and 500 miles, with type certification and entry into service targeted for 2028. The Houston-based group, which is active in the offshore oil and gas support market, did not disclose the size of the deposit placed to secure the orders.

Bristow has already established partnerships and made provisional sales agreements with multiple eVTOL aircraft developers. These include Volocopter, Beta Technologies, Elroy Air, Lilium, Overair, and Vertical Aerospace.

“With this early delivery position, Bristow looks forward to being among the first advanced air mobility companies to add the Electra eSTOL aircraft to our fleet and offer our customers the advantages of this new class of aircraft,” said Dave Stepanek, the operator’s executive vice president and chief transformation officer. “Bristow provides safe, efficient, sustainable, and accessible air travel solutions to our customers, and Electra’s eSTOL aircraft aligns perfectly with our vision while enabling new markets at substantially lower operating costs.”

Airports Not Required for Short-takeoff Aircraft

The as-yet-unnamed aircraft is expected to take off with ground rolls as short as 150 feet, allowing it to operate from short landing strips of around 300 feet in length, including sites in urban areas. The company is projecting an operating range of up to 500 miles and speeds of 200 mph and expects its ability to access places not previously open to fixed-wing aircraft to support multiple new civil and military applications. 

Blown-wing technology (sometimes referred to as "blown lift") involves an aerodynamic effect in which—by increasing the flow of air over the wing—the lift is generated at a much slower airspeed than with conventional aircraft. This is a key factor in the anticipated STOL performance of Electra’s design and also is expected to improve energy efficiency.

According to Electra, more than 30 prospective operators have placed preorders for more than 1,700 of the aircraft. This backlog is provisionally valued at more than $6 billion.

“We deeply value our partnership with Bristow Group and the 75-plus years of experience they bring to our development program as our principal launch operational customers,” said Electra’s chair and CEO, John Langford. “This cash deposit is a real show of confidence in our eSTOL aircraft and a validation of our development roadmap.”

Earlier this month, Electra started test flights with the two-seat technology demonstrator it is using to develop the full-scale production aircraft. The EL-2 Goldfinch first took off from the company’s headquarters at Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia on November 11 for an all-electric flight and used hybrid-electric power for a second flight on November 19.

Electra has started test flights with its EL-2 Goldfinch technology demonstrator aircraft
Electra has started test flights with its EL-2 Goldfinch technology demonstrator aircraft. (Electra/Taylor Mickal)