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Hybrid electric Twin Otter: First step to efficient, low emission commuter aircraft

Hybrid electric Twin Otter: First step to efficient, low emission commuter aircraft

Ampaire and IKHANA Aircraft Services have launched a NASA-funded feasibility study for modifying the venerable Twin Otter workhorse aircraft for hybrid-electric propulsion.

Ampaire was awarded a NASA contract to address hybrid-electric propulsion on the Twin Otter as part of NASA EAP (Electric Aircraft Propulsion) efforts. Ampaire and IKHANA are jointly executing this NASA program. The two companies are collaborating to evaluate various hybrid diesel/electric configurations for the aircraft, and to develop cost, schedule and risk mitigation plans for a further phase of aircraft development.

The ultimate aim is to pioneer a revolutionary hybrid electric variant of IKHANA’s RWMI DHC-6-300HG™ Twin Otter aircraft. This 14,000 lb. (6350 kg) aircraft would produce over 1MW of total power and carry up to 19 passengers and cargo, while achieving dramatically reduced fuel consumption. This effort draws on Ampaire’s and IKHANA’s collaboration for flight tests and technology development on two Ampaire Electric EEL six-seat flight demonstrator aircraft, which are Cessna 337 twins modified for hybrid electric power. Leveraging Ampaire’s plug-in parallel hybrid propulsion technology, the hybrid Twin Otter unlocks groundbreaking capabilities for civil and government customers.

“The electrification of 19-seat commuter aircraft is a near-term possibility that will benefit operators and passengers, while reducing atmospheric emissions and helping the aviation industry achieve its carbon neutral growth objectives,” said Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker. “We see NASA’s support as validation of Ampaire’s retrofit strategy. It’s a low-risk, achievable path to a hybrid/electric, and ultimately a fully electric, future. This retrofit strategy differentiates Ampaire from new-build, capital intensive programs.”

Noertker explained the importance of the 19-seat category to making progress in electric flight. “Ampaire’s study of the aviation market indicates that one-third of aviation emissions are accounted for by route segments of less than 1,000 kilometers. We have the technology today to address these route segments, on aircraft up to 19-seats., while hybrid electric solutions will come for larger aircraft in the longer term. We can have a hybrid electric Twin Otter in service in just a few years. That is what makes this first phase of work for NASA groundbreaking. This research will have broad application beyond just the Twin Otter platform.”

“The Twin Otter is a unique multi-role aircraft with proven flexibility to operate as an urban commuter, a back-country bush plane, and in various special missions applications. It’s an ideal demonstration platform for electrification technologies and as a certified product will have broad market appeal in its own right.”, said IKHANA president and CEO John Zublin. “The IKHANA team is excited to be pioneering hybrid technology for the DHC-6 Twin Otter; adapting and certifying new capabilities that expand utility for operators is what we are all about.”