FAA Sets Special Rules For magniX Electric Motors


The FAA has taken a major step in certificating commercial electric aircraft by publishing special conditions for the approval of motors, controllers and support equipment made by magniX. The Washington State company has been testing two different motors on Cessna Caravan and De Havilland Beaver aircraft. “These engines have a novel or unusual design feature when compared to the state of technology envisioned in the airworthiness standards applicable to aircraft engines,” the agency says in the lengthy document, which tries to anticipate all the issues that might come up as electric power goes mainstream.

The agency’s best guess at the certification standards required for electric propulsion covers 32 factors that will have to be addressed when magniX applies for certification for the motors. Among those special conditions are dealing with all the high-voltage cables and devices in the aircraft and making sure the motors are durable and meet the power specs. The FAA is careful to stress that this particular set of requirements is not a blueprint for other manufacturers. “This action affects only magniX magni350 and magni650 model engines. It is not a rule of general applicability.”

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  1. Outside of the well-publicized battery fires, we see little to no discussion of the other new factors that accompany electrical propulsion. One of those is handling the high voltages at high power levels that are involved. All sorts of practices that we can get away with in the familiar 12/24 volt vehicular systems have to be radically upgraded when you are dealing with circuits running 400 volts or more that can deliver hundreds of amps. FAA regulators will doubtless be doing a deep dive into human safety & environmental factors, but we can still expect a lot of fine-tuning as we get real-world experience.

      • True, up to a point- but weight matters far less to them, and weight is what still keeps electric aircraft utterly non-feasible in any true, practical sense. I predict that we are a still decade away from truly practical electric aircraft. At least one generational breakthrough in power density will be required, maybe two.

      • Spontaneous combustion??
        Autopiloting directly into emergency vehicles?
        Suspension failing?
        Body parts falling off?
        Roofs detaching in the slipstream?
        Poorly aligned body panels?
        Non user friendly sightline to instruments?
        Cost cutting away physical buttons or interface?
        Needlessly complicating actions as simple as opening the glove compartment?

        Which Tesla features would you incorporate into an airplane?

      • Tesla motors is probably the last company you’d want to draw inspiration from when making an aircraft. They have a consistent history of over promising and under delivering, rampant quality issues and possibly the worst human factors and interface designs on the market. Not that we have to worry about Tesla motors making airplanes any time soon, electric manned aircraft are going to remain a novelty/curiosity for some time, energy density of batteries is far too low and higher density batteries which retain good discharge rates are too volatile.

      • I would double that sentiment. The Model X is overall the best vehicle I’ve owned. Almost zero maintenance. It came with lifetime free supercharging. Free. We have a position on the Cyber Truck and on a Y for my wife. I’d take a position on a Tesla plane in a heartbeat, if nothing else but for the easy access to charging and the guarantee they’d toss the legacy garbage we all have to tolerate. The seats in our late model T206H are like lawn chairs compared to the X. And, yes we know they’re not 26G seats.

  2. I just read the Federal Register via the link outlining the ‘Special Conditions.” Wow … didn’t take the boys long to make everything complicated. OH … forgot … the FAA motto … ‘making simple stuff hard since 1958.’ No wonder it’s going to take them four years to repair LODA.

    And as if THOSE items of concern weren’t bad enough, these people want to fly the airplanes in a salt water environment. I don’t see any special conditions dealing with salt water intrusion or corrosion? Nor do I see any conditions dealing with heavy battery containment in a crash. Now that I think about it, there isn’t any conditions related to ground recharging safety, either. The FAA missed some great opportunities for more conditions (sic). Maybe they’ll be able to use Tesla Supercharging stations?

    I can see the headlines now: “seaplane crashes into Puget Sound, occupants who survived initial crash were subsequently electrocuted trying to egress” or “lineboy fried in freak airplane recharging incident.”

    • Salt water intrusion and corrosion are already covered sufficiently in other existing FARs, as are things like battery protection and retention of items of mass (like a battery). Ground recharging wouldn’t, for the most part, be a type certification concern, more of a maintenance activity in the same way FAR 33 doesn’t cover safe refueling processes despite the fact that fuel is, in fact, flammable and hazardous.

  3. Yet EV advocates insist that “certification is just around the corner.”

    If you ever needed proof that they aren’t “grounded” in reality–they’ve never dealt with the FAA certification requirements.

    The story of the FAA taking FOUR YEARS to “fix” their error in regulations ought to send investors running for the doors to get out!

    • Jim … I sat in the ‘Meet the Administrator’ forum at Airventure 2021 when Dickson said — with a straight face — that LODA would take four years to fix. I had to mentally throttle myself from jumping up and yelling, YOU caused it; why can’t YOU wave your “magic twanger” and find a way to fix it NOW!. Every time I think about it, it frosts my cookies I guess we’re now down to using Sen. Inhofe, et al, to force them to do their jobs.

  4. A Tesla can hide its massive weight because it does not have to levitate.

    A Tesla can hide its long recharge times because it can be plugged in at night

    A Tesla can hide its poor quality of manufacture because there are tow trucks and a shoulder to coast onto if needed.

    A Tesla can hide its poor ergonomics and absence of physical controls because it’s buyers would put up with anything.

    NONE of this apples to an airplane.

    Tesla would be a last choice for emulation.

    But a first choice for immolation!

    • Love it or not William you’ll be driving an EV within 5 years. Doesn’t have to be a Tesla. Factually, my Tesla can be recharged (300 miles) in 40 minutes. Admittedly, the paint on mine wasn’t perfect, but what’s perfect ? Tesla ergonomics are great. I’m over 6′, 210b and the X is extremely comfortable. The emerging left is going to make ICE car drivers very uncomfortable over the next 2-3 years. Please go check out the EV of your choice. You’ll be pleasantly surprised I’ll wager. I’ll also bet that this group, led by Pipistrel and others, will field an amazing electric plane before Biden is out of office.

  5. I will not.

    I plan to have my 500 HP twin turbo V-8 powered S Class Benz another 10 years.

    After that I’ll buy a Taycan or EQS or whatever the equivalent is at that time.

    I recognize that EVs do have certain advantages over cars, but my hate for Elon, EV culture, environmental extremists, Marists, liberals, and and Teslas runs deep.

  6. I am not in any way an EV naysayer, but for the love of tuna, could we PLEASE stop saying getting Special Conditions finalized for two engine from one manufacturer is a major step for certification of commercial electric aircraft?
    This in the press release and “reporters” keep repeating it but I’d ask you to really think if having defined regs really means you are well on your way to being granted a type certificate and production certificate.
    The existing Part 33 regulations have existed for 50+ years and it’s actually very easy to understand what’s needed. But think about how many engines have been clean-sheet certified since 1960? Having a well understood certification basis for mature technology hasn’t put thousands of new engines into the.
    If I gave you a press release that said Carl has achieved a major step in certifying the Subaru engine on my homebuilt because I googled 14 CFR Part 33 while I was on the toilet this morning, would you be showing me the same level of attention? Fellow readers have for years seen countless well qualified new startups’ promises of a new revolutionary turbine or piston engine, and sadly we’ve seen them come and go. We wish them the best but we take these with an “I’ll Believe it when I See It”, and this is leveraging technology that is extremely mature. We all know the problem is not that there are no regs, or that the regs are technologically impossible, but that it is just enormously time intensive and expensive to complete a certification.
    I mean if Porsche spent $75 million (in 1980’s dollars) to make 80 6-cylinder engines and then surrender their TC, I’m thinking there are one or two compliance barriers to entry beyond just knowing what the rules are that we might want to keep in mind before we say E commercial aircraft are coming soon.
    These are not the needed Part 33 changes, this is a startup company applying evolving technology has gotten special cert rules for only for these specific two engines (the FR says “It is not a rule of general applicability.”). So how is this a major step for us to be flying commercial EVs?
    When this company show a realistic timeline for certification of the engine, I will be happy for them but even it they clear that massive hurdle, that would only be a certified engine. Read the Final Rule, this scope has nothing to do with anything other than the powerplant, and FAA is clear that fuel, prop, or the gazillion systems of an airframe are not in scope.
    So even with a certified engine, an airframe manufacturer will have to do an enormous amount of certification work for every other system (and powerplant integration) under a combination of existing 14 CFR Subch. C regs and the long process of getting special conditions for all the countless areas existing regs don’t apply to, long before we are on our way to commercial e-aviation.
    Again, I hope they can get this done, but let’s be honest, if this didn’t have “electric” in the title, an aviation journalist would be much more tempered in their optimism for a startup to get this done and would not use hyperbole of “FAA has taken a major step in certificating commercial electric aircraft” when you finally just got to Step 1 of the long and expensive process.

    • Precisely, Carl.

      On April 15, 2015, Superior Air Parts had an announcement right here on Avweb about a new line of 2-stroke diesel engines — Gemini — that they were going to deliver to OEM’s for beta testing in LSA’s in “two to three months.” I saw a model of one at Sun-n-Fun 2015, became smitten with the thing and got friendly with the cEO. Several years passed and … nothing. Now mind you, these were not going to be certified, they just had to meet ASTM standards for LSA’s which was their first intended market. Here we are 6.5 years later and … where’s my Gemini ?? Meanwhile, Rotax first produced the 912 family of engines in 1989 and produced it’s 50,000th engine in 2014. Nuff said.

      See: avweb.com/air-shows-events/superior-launches-diesel-engine-line/

  7. Agreed.

    As an example if it takes 100 years and a zillion dollars (hyperbole) to STC a simple electronic ignition for a proven engine how much longer and more expensive it will be for an entirely new and unproven (in aviation) motor.