Surf Air Mobility announced on Thursday that it has entered into an agreement to acquire electric aircraft company Ampaire. A closing date for the deal, which is reportedly valued at around $100 million, has not been made public. Ampaire flew its hybrid electric Electric EEL Cessna 337 Skymaster conversion for the first time in June 2019 and recently completed a monthlong commercial route demonstration program with the aircraft in partnership with Mokulele Airlines.
“With flight demonstrations and testing already in progress, Ampaire’s hybrid electric powertrain technology brings us closer to the next great shift in air travel: sustainable aviation that’s accessible to everyone,” said Surf Air Mobility co-founder and CEO Sudhin Shahani. “We see the near-term opportunity to transform existing turboprop aircraft across the entire industry as the first step to ultimately extend to fully electric aviation across all trip lengths.”
As previously reported by AVweb, California-based Surf Air acquired online aviation marketplace app BlackBird last year, forming Surf Air Mobility Corporation. Surf Air offers an “all-you-can-fly” monthly membership program with flights conducted by a network of Part 135 operators. The company’s primary focus is on 50- to 400-mile routes.
$100M because some guy stuck a pile of batteries and an electrical motor into a Skymaster and hasn’t even proven the idea fully commercially certifiable or even meets its own lofty goals !!?? I need to go out into my garage and invent something that runs on electricity … I’ll be rich in no time once I get it sold.
P.T. Barnum was right !
It’s been working great for Elon Musk as well. Your taxpayer dollars at work making some people feel good about themselves.
The technology in batteries doesn’t exist yet for most aircraft. The present state of current batteries is only suitable for small light training aircraft to be used in the traffic pattern for training. To equip larger, high performance aircraft with high capacity batteries to actually go on a long cross country, is a long way off in the future. If ever.
Agree. Fuel cells may have a chance but the energy density is simply not there with batteries and likely never will be.
Its all physics. I won’t bore you with the math, but you could run the numbers yourself. With the best batteries commercially available (Li-Po) and the best electric motor. Take any propeller aircraft on the market, replace the engines and the fuel tanks with equal weight in motors and batteries, the best you can hope for is 1/12 the range you had with the original powerplant and fuel.
The problem is not the electric motors. The problem to solve is the energy density of batteries. Until batteries are an order of magnitude better than they are today, electric powered aircraft will be relegated to short hops….VERY short hops.
You’re right, Jim. Everyone is SO fixated on “saving the planet” by running everything on stored electrical engerny that they totally lose focus of the fact that unobtanium hasn’t yet been found and that dragging around heavy batteries is inefficient … especially in an airplane which has to defeat gravity vs a car which only has to overcome friction and a little drag. All of us here know that the heavier an airplane gets, the higher the necessary AoA to maintain level flight ergo the higher the drag. The motors, controllers and wiring aren’t exactly lightweight, either. I just don’t get it.
And NOW … given what’s happened in Texas, where the heck is all the recharging energy gonna come from? Trees? I’m hearing that 23% of the grid in Texas comes from wind power which isn’t working. SO what do we do … stop flying when that happens? Lastly, I just read an article focusing on ‘what’re we gonna do about recycling all this green energy equipment?’ Focus on the present … to heck with the future. OH … and now the Chinese don’t want our waste anymore, either.
For MY garage project which is gonna net ME $100M when I sell the business to someone with more money than sense … I’ve already bought a gallon of green paint so I can paint everything “feel good” green.
What a great name for a paint color – “Feel Good Green.”
Add it to the “save the planet” color chip chart!
Yars … we can license the color and chip chart names to all the paint companies for a measly $100M. I know a guy who can come up with a color chart app so we can reach the masses from their armchairs. I bet we could even sell polyurethane versions for airplane use … that way manufacturers could claim their airplanes are “green” and “sustainable.” too. We should consider going public with this idea. We might even be able to get the Climate Envoy czar to buy some for the next generation of EGV’s (electric Government vehicles)? We’re rich!
The TX grid went “down” not because of wind power, but due the arrogance of TX to not be connected to the next door neighbors’ grid so they could import/export power. The lack of preparation to deal with cold temperatures for their natural gas/coal and other fossil fuel plants was the prime reason for this debacle. Nuclear power is the best option for baseline energy, supplemented by wind and solar. You have no idea what you are talking about. Get your news exclusively from Fox news?
Before you start calling people out about not knowing what they are talking about, might want to check your facts. 40% of the loss of power in the state (which I live in) was attributable to the loss of renewable energy. 60% was from Natural Gas/Coal/Nuclear. So yes, the energy that is referred to as sustainable was a significant portion of the problem. And while I agree with you that Nuclear power is the best option, the nuclear power plant in South Texas was also down for a portion of the week. I haven’t heard why but the 60% wasn’t isolated to a natural gas/coal problem.
Simpletons are incapable of reason; the cannot comprehend complex systems and disregard context. It’s not even worth my time to explain it to someone who says “arrogance” brought the partial power delivery outage
You’re both correct. Texas has little — can you spell woefully inadequate — ties to the rest of the States’ energy grids in an emergency. And, it’s sustainable — “feel good green” — intrastate resources either went down because of the cold or could not keep up.
Meanwhile .., my electric Skymaster is down for the count in Ft Stockton 🙁
Larry, what is funny is that 16 OTHER STATES had similar outages. Realize that reporting on just Texas is more political than reality.
Yes, you’re exactly right. I think the solution for electric aircraft will turn out to be hydrogen fuel cell “batteries.” Hydrogen is the only thing we’ve got with the energy density and low weight necessary to do more than just demonstrate electric flight. There are companies working on this but it’s a few years from commercial viability I think.
Fortunately this is totally unnecessary. Fuel remains plentiful and will for generations to come.
The project picked the wrong aircraft. The aircraft that would best fit the mission needs to allow for a heavy weight at the Center of Gravity (C.G.). As the battery technology improves the C.G. wouldn’t change and the useful load will continue to get better. The Republic RC-3 Seabee has enough camber it’s wings to hold large battery packs. Put two electric motors on the leading edge like a Twin Bee.
Replace the center engine with a Rolls-Royce – Turbine 250 operating a +300KW Generator. You could make a business of charging up other electric aircraft that forced landed away from base. Also use the Amphibious Aircraft as a power station for remote locations and power outages in Texas at .30 cents a KW/Hour.
I’ll sell the idea for $95 million… that’s $5 million less and you can start making money right away. Think ROI 🙂
Klaus, it’s a demonstrator and test bed only. There are no plans to get a fleet of Skymasters to serve the islands. They are actively studying the Twin Otter for that purpose.
Return On Investment (ROI) sure seems to be a touchy subject with the electric vehicle crowd. Even the electric automotive companies are very offended by ROI and where the power to charge these vehicles is coming from.
I’m always intrigued with the many modifications done to the poor old Skymaster. Automotive engines, turbine engines, electric motors, single-engine conversions, stretched versions, rear clamshell doors replacing the rear engine–even SAND SKIS (see SAND CRAB) military experimental for operation “in the desert”.
Electric-only airplanes LITERALLY “aren’t going anywhere” because of the lack of range–but that doesn’t mean that electric doesn’t have a place. If it is to BE, I believe “hybrid” is the answer. Consider an aircraft like the Baron 58 (or better yet, the Aerostar, as it purposely was built with the engines on the CG). Removing both piston engines and one prop saves a LOT of weight. Grafting a complete engine/electric engine/battery system from a Prius is getting very close to that saved weight–and the weight saved on fuel gets even closer. Takeoff on BOTH conventional and electric power plants not only gives stunning performance, but gives a lot of safety options with the redundancy of two power sources. The efficient Prius engine provides power in flight to drive the aircraft and charge the batteries. The electric engine doesn’t have to climb at high power–it doesn’t take much to sustain flight–providing multi-engine redundancy.
CG-wise, putting the Prius engine (both electric and auto fuel) in the nose is very close to the weight/moment of the two IO–520s and props.
The system operates on auto fuel–achieving the so-far unobtainable goal of a fast aircraft to do so. The Prius engine/electric motor/battery system could be virtually “off the shelf”–FAR less expensive than two aircraft engines and props.
Look at it this way–there are a LOT MORE PRIUS CARS OUT THERE THAN TESLAS (or even Chevy Volts)–owning a hybrid is much cheaper and easier than an all-electric. “Battery-powered electric airplanes?” Put them in the same pipe dream as “Flying Cars”–everyone talks about them–but I don’t believe it’s going to happen.
NOW you’re cooking with “gas,” Jim. I know a Company in CA that’s developing just such a cargo UAV right now. The design uses a turbine as the charging engine driving quad redundant electrical motors.
Operating on only the Prius electric engine, with the small and efficient Prius auto engine providing recharging power ONLY would be VERY efficient. It also eliminates the issue with “twinning reduction gearboxes” and their associated complexity and weight–the electric motor is very reliable–and in the event of a stoppage of the small Prius engine, will be able to sustain flight for quite some time on battery power–it doesn’t take much power for cruise. It would be a spectacular short-field machine with that combined torque–and no action needed in the event of a power loss.
I don’t have it right in front of me now, but the combined weight of the two IO-520 engines plus prop would go a long way toward a “drop in” of the entire Prius engine, electric motor, and battery. The dry weight of an IO-520 “bare” (without accessories) is 405# each–PLUS the weight of starter, generator, vacuum pump, fuel injection, mags, exhaust–let’s just say 100#–plus the weight of 19 additional quarts of oil compared to the Baron–TIMES TWO makes it 1010 pounds–PLUS one prop & governor @ 100 pounds–PLUS the existing 2 batteries in the Baron–that’s about 1240 pounds saved–goes a long way toward the weight allowance for a Prius engine plus batteries. There also would not be a requirement to haul around 166 (or more) gallons of fuel.
The Prius battery weighs in at 99 pounds INCLUDING THE CONTROLLERS for the new HSD (the battery itself weighs 64 pounds)–(the first batteries and controllers weighed 167 pounds). The Aluminum block engine weighs 214#, and produces 95-148 hp (not that you need a lot of torque to spin a generator). That battery and engine weight is 278#–the weight savings over a Baron second engine would allow for 962# of batteries (substantial!)–not to mention that it doesn’t need nearly the fuel of the Baron.
Quiet–reliable–outstanding fuel efficiency–redundant propulsion–safe in the event of an engine failure–low cost to overhaul/replace–could be made to run on autogas, diesel, or jet fuel–uses automotive oil so no corrosion–it only spins the generator, so no main bearing propulsion issues (unlike other automotive conversions). It’s also “scaleable” for new construction.
Auto engine conversions in airplanes have not been very successful–but that’s largely because they are limited to a very low prop RPM–requiring reduction gearing, air cooling issues, and unique thrust issues with aero engine bearings. The Prius engine has been a reliable generator of electric charging power for years, and solves most of those problems. The redundancy of power and the use of automotive technology is a plus.
“Proven Prius Electric” hybrid? Sure. “Pure electric”? Pipe dream.
Excellent idea. Hybrid powered engines running at constant RPM with a medium sizedl battery is the way to go until battery energy density is upped 5 to 10 times at least for aviation applications.
There is nothing wrong with the “energy density” of batteries. And there is nothing on the horizon that can store enough energy in batteries to be practical. Cars have proven that a hybrid system works – airplanes just cannot use regerative braking. Only a generating system, that is lightweight can solve the problem. Many fuels are candidates. Some are polution free.