Startup Prepares to Test Hybrid-Electric Aircraft

By Allyson Park

Electra photo

MANASSAS, Virginia — An aviation startup recently unveiled a new hybrid-electric ultra-short takeoff and landing aircraft, which was partially funded by the Air Force.

“We’re ready to test the entire system with this technology demonstrator aircraft. We can’t wait to fly this plane and show the world what our eSTOL aircraft can do,” John Langford, founder and CEO of Electra.aero, said in a statement.

The Air Force’s AFWERX innovation arm selected Electra for a Strategic Funding Increase award that secures up to $85 million for the aircraft’s development. In the three years since the company was founded, Electra designed the aircraft, validated its “blown-lift” distributed electric propulsion system with a sub-scale demonstrator and ran a fully integrated test of its 150-kilowatt hybrid-electric generator at full scale, Langford said.

The company displayed the eight-motor test vehicle and revealed its name — the EL-2 Goldfinch — in June at Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia, with Air Force representatives in attendance.

Ben Marchionna, director of technology and innovation at Electra, in an interview said: “Hybrid is key. That is what gives you the long ranges that make it really relevant to the military applications.

“The hybrid-electric system is basically recharging the batteries in flight. . . . Not only can we go long distances, but you can turn around and get back without having to go about refueling,” he added.

The company will continue to work with the Air Force to make sure the aircraft is a dual-use technology, he said.

“You can take this commercial airplane and with some very simple modifications, make it really useful to the Air Force, the Army, the Marines, et cetera.”

Lt. Col. John Tekell, the Air Force’s Agility Prime lead, said: “We want [Electra] to be successful on their own without the DoD, and we also want to be able to accelerate whatever successes they have with additional investment from the Agility program.”

The Agility Prime program is looking at developing electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles for the Air Force.

The two-seat EL-2 Goldfinch will undergo an extensive flight test program this summer. Electra will use the results of these tests to help develop the design of a nine-passenger electric aircraft. ND

Topics: Air Force News, Emerging Technologies

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