Ampaire’s Hybrid-Electric Cessna Flies to Alaska
Launch Alaska President and CEO Isaac Vanderburg (right) met Ampaire co-founder and CEO Kevin Noertker in Fairbanks, the end of Electric EEL’s journey.
A Cessna 337 Skymaster modified with a hybrid-electric powertrain landed at Fairbanks International Airport after a 3,400-mile series of flights from Southern California. It’s the first hybrid-electric aircraft in Alaska and the farthest north any hybrid-electric aircraft has ever flown.
Designed as a testbed for high-powered electronics, inverters, motors, and related systems, the aircraft was developed by Ampaire, a member of the Launch Alaska portfolio and graduate of Launch Alaska’s Tech Deployment Track.
“This first-of-its-kind flight reflects the monumental progress we have made in electrified aviation, and we’re excited to continue deploying solutions that increase reliability, accessibility, and cost savings for communities around the globe,” says Kevin Noertker, Ampaire co-founder and CEO.
The flight is also a milestone as the first hybrid-electric aircraft to gain airworthiness approvals from both US and Canadian authorities. Thus, it is also the first international hybrid-electric flight, supported by the first-ever deployments of mobile electric aircraft chargers in Alaska and Canada.
To make its historic flight to Alaska, the Ampaire aircraft navigated wildfire smoke, rain, and rugged terrain, and demonstrated expanded capability beyond Ampaire’s previous deployments in California, Hawaii, and the United Kingdom.
“Alaska is well-known for its innovation and discovery, so it’s fitting that this groundbreaking hybrid-electric flight made history in Alaska,” says Erin Whitney, director of the Arctic Energy Office of the US Department of Energy. “We welcome clean energy adoption and cooperation as we continue to lead the way in the Arctic.”
Compared to a stock Cessna 337 Skymaster, Ampaire’s retrofit delivers 50- to 70-percent fuel cost savings. The company also projects 25- to 50-percent maintenance cost savings.
Noertker adds, “At the end of the day, these projects are all about people: creating jobs and economic growth, increasing connectivity while decreasing costs, benefiting our communities, and building our future together.”
Rising to the Challenge
Ampaire co-founder and CEO Kevin Noertker and US Senator Lisa Murkowski greet Ampaire’s hybrid-electric aircraft in Fairbanks on August 13, 2023.
When the plane, called the Electric EEL, arrived in Fairbanks on August 13, it was welcomed by business leaders, elected officials like US Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Evelyn Wang, director of the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
“To enable low-cost, low-carbon transportation, we need to commercialize electrified aircraft technologies and realize the full potential of regional airports,” Wang says. “If we rise to this challenge, we can connect Alaskans and all Americans to one another, transport goods, and provide services including medical care. We can drive down the cost of travel and make it accessible for all communities.”
ARPA-E is supporting Ampaire’s technology, and Wang says the trip to Fairbanks is a step toward commercialization. Further support from Launch Alaska recognizes the potential for electrification of air travel in the state.
“Aviation plays a huge role in Alaska’s economy and way of life, and we’re so proud to help support companies like Ampaire as they develop solutions to decarbonize and advance one of our most vital modes of transportation,” says Launch Alaska President and CEO Isaac Vanderburg. “Tech deployments like this are key to advancing the energy transition, with immediate and long-term benefits for the communities they serve.”
Ampaire, based at an urban airstrip just east of Los Angeles International Airport, is working on other aircraft in addition to Electric EEL (tail number N337EE). Its fleet includes a plug-in hybrid Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, a De Havilland Twin Otter turboprop with a 1 MW powerplant, and an experimental design called the Tailwind with an aft-mounted ducted fan.