Surf Air To STC Electric, Hybrid Caravans

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Surf Air Mobility has announced it intends to “develop and certify hybrid and fully-electric powertrains for new and existing Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft.” The California company has struck deals with electric motor maker magniX and AeroTEC, an engineering company, to develop STCs for both types of powertrains. It has also announced a deal to merge with Southern Airways, which operates a large fleet of Caravans, to put the electrified aircraft to work. “AeroTEC and magniX are perfect partners for SAM to accelerate electrification of Cessna Grand Caravans and to lead the new era of green flying,” said Sudhin Shahani, co-founder and CEO of Surf Air Mobility.

The company will first concentrate on the hybrid Caravans because they won’t need any chargers at the airports they serve. Even though the planes will still need fossil fuel to fly, Surf Air is predicting big savings for the environment and for its bottom line. “SAM’s first-generation hybrid electric Cessna Grand Caravans are being designed to target carbon emissions reductions of up to 50 percent and direct operating cost reductions of up to 25 percent,” the company said. The aircraft will have the same range as PT-6-powered Caravans so will be interchangeable on existing routes.

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38 COMMENTS

    • MagniX makes electric motors, and connected controllers. Based in Everett WA north of Seattle.

      Involved with Harbour Air’s pandering to its gummint customers, last I heard (there was a change). HA’s Beaver has flown several flights, general status is on HA’s web site but no technical details, they are preparing a second aircraft in configuration for certification. (Based at YVR, there is engineering and fabrication support in the area.)

      ‘Aero TEC’ – you have to spell precisely as there are several with or without an h – marketing people are fools, is an established consulting outfit in Seattle and Moses Lake WA, incudes flight testing and now light manufacturing capability.

      Leeham News blog had articles by Bjorn on hybrid and electric aircraft. Battery weight is a big problem, last i paid attention he seemed to be keen on hydrogen which requires huge investment in infrastructure.

      • The HA project apparently involves H55 in Switzerland, an e-aviation outfit.

        MagniX appears to be on the north side of PAE, north of Boeing’s plant, west of its recreation center, Japanese Gulch behind it I think (history of hard work and defending community in it) .

        Aero TEC’s light fabrication facility is Arlington WA airport north of Everett, long a centre of making aircraft things of varying success.

      • H55 apparently has battery technology, it is related to ‘Solar Impulse’.

        Harbour Air says the first battery it tried was so heavy the airplane had little range.
        And that there were teething problems with MagniX equipment.
        POC configuration first flew in 2019.
        HA claim 30 minutes range with 30 minute reserve, their main run is Vancouver BC area to Victoria BC harbour. VMC operation only.
        They have partners for charging stations, I am curious how quick as turnarounds have to be be short for economics.
        The founder and boss of HA has a good reputation, but I wonder if he is up to this monster task, which I think is not needed unless it can reduce noise in Victoria Harbour.
        Certification flight tests not expected until late 2023, there will be much ground testing earlier in that year.

        HA is a large experienced seaplane airline, like Kenmore Air on Lake Washington, run well enough to have capital for turbine powered deHC airplanes. (The single Otter needs more power, turbines provide that, some small operators use a Polish radial installed by smart people in Ontario to get more power.)

  1. This company’s entire business model is based on two false premises, that CO2 is harmful to the environment, and that man-made climate change exists. CO2 is what humans exhale and is food for plants, hardly hazardous. The myth of man-made climate change has been debunked so often, that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Electric-powered vehicle and aircraft are powered ultimately by fossil fuels. They only exist due to fear-mongering and government confiscation of taxes that are showered on a few crony companies. The best fuels for aircraft are Jet-A, auto diesel and Mogas without ethanol. The US has vast quantities of oil, coal and natural gas, and the Earth (God) constantly replenishes these. They are the ultimate clean renewable energy resource. I predict battery airplanes going the way of the DoDo bird. Once people see behind the curtain of enviro fear-mongering and the government subsidies run out, they disappear. The same holds for those silly battery cars. Of course for those living in the SoCal bubble (LaLaLand) everything looks different.

    • “The myth of man-made climate change has been debunked so often, that it’s hardly worth mentioning.” But, you know, just for the fun of it, why don’t you link to a single scientific study with any credibility whatsoever that does debunk that myth.

      • Start by over half a century of FAILure of catastrophist predictions – complete failure, none have come to pass. And look at the behaviour of types like David Sleazuki who removes his web pages when challenged on facts, he and alGore jet around spewing CO2 and leaving lights on in mansions – hypocrites.

        What did you say about ‘credibility’? Having fun yet?

        Then go to friendsofscience.org for explanations and links to solid data and research.

        And my page wclimate.pdf on moralindividualism.com, to which I will add basic physics of ‘greenhouse gas’ molecules showing CO2 cannot cause much warming.

        • And climateaudito.org for solid critique of statistical analyses used by climate ‘scientists’, often FAILing.

          Then read up on Climategate, the leak of documents showing collusion to block questioners from publications, one of the perps being the infamous Michael Mann who refused court orders to produce his facts.

          Humans cannot cause runaway climate warming, which is not and cannot happen.
          Earth was warmer and climate stable in the Medieval Warm Period when Vikings farmed southwest Greenland.
          Cimate has been warming slowly since the end of a cool era that drove them out, shown by accurate thermometers like weather balloons and satellite sensors.
          The effect CO2 can have is small, limited by the ‘saturation’ effect of overlap of spectra of carbon dioxide and dihydrogen monoxide vapour, most of the increase has already been realized.

      • After actually studying, ask yourself why someone who supposedly is in aviation fails basic ability needed to fly, and do it safely – facts, logic, …

        If you want to be a True Believer, go work in Christian missionary flight operations into poor areas of the world, instead of trying to take affordable portable energy away from poor people.

    • Thankyou.

      See my responses to ‘Brian S’.

      There’s a doomsday psychology, nothing new just different theories, like doomsday preachers anti-human types keep peddling their corrosion, often claiming their dates of doom were just early, catastrophe will come someday.

      • One nit is that there may be a bit of warming from human use of fossil fuels, which produces little CO2 compared to other sources like undersea volcanoes (this decade spelled ‘Hunga Tonga’).

        Beware of catastrophist claims of long persistence of CO2 in atmosphere, measurements at Mauna Loa rebut that.

        Beware of claims of ocean acidification (in fact ocean water is chemically ‘basic’) and claims that is killing coral reefs (which bleach from ocean sloshing and virus and some fish eating them). Coral dies regardless – that’s what coral atolls are made of. Water level in the Indian and South Pacific oceans fluctuates with wind and currents, I call that sloshing on a slow scale.

        The amount of climate warming from CO2 of any source is limited to a very small amount, most of which has already been realized. That’s because the overlap of spectra of carbon dioxide and the most abundant greenhouse gas dihydrogen monoxide vapour. Every doubling of CO2 only causes half of the temperature increase of the last doubling, so the effect limits (on a graph it looks asymptotic, a mathematical term, not an assumption term as catastrophists use).

        • Sorry, but none of what you’ve cited is a credible resource regarding climate change. I keep reading on AvWeb the often-repeated claim that CO2 and water vapor have some spectral overlap limiting the warming effect- this is false. Water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas, but it is the pronounced change in CO2 leading to increasing forcing in the energy budget. This is a very complicated physics problem and understandable that one could be swayed by misinformation.

          A layperson description can be found here: climate.nasa. gov/ask-nasa-climate/3143/steamy-relationships-how-atmospheric-water-vapor-supercharges-earths-greenhouse-effect/

          For an actual, peer-reviewed review paper I’d recommend: doi. org/10.1016/j.endeavour.2016.07.002

          *Source: I am a professional scientist and I use spectroscopy tools in my research lab. I am not a climate scientist but I use the same physics to understand how light interacts with living tissue. I love aviation and I agree there are plenty of proposed “snake oil” solutions to reducing CO2 emissions. We can and should debate skeptically about these. I find this hybrid solution proposed in the article far more credible than any near-term, electric only solution for transport category aircraft, for example.

          **Climate change due to elevated CO2 in the atmosphere is the overwhelming consensus of nearly all credible scientists today. Uncertainty remains over long-term predictions, and what to be done about CO2 emissions remains a political question open for debate. However, the underlying science is not up for debate, regardless of whatever confirmation-bias supporting (and non peer-reviewed) websites you bring up.

          Edit- removed hypertext

      • Sorry, but none of what you’ve cited is a credible resource regarding climate change. I keep reading on AvWeb the often-repeated claim that CO2 and water vapor have some spectral overlap limiting the warming effect- this is false. Water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas, but it is the pronounced change in CO2 leading to increasing forcing in the energy budget. This is a very complicated physics problem and understandable that one could be swayed by misinformation.

        A layperson description can be found here: https://climate.nasa.gov/ask-nasa-climate/3143/steamy-relationships-how-atmospheric-water-vapor-supercharges-earths-greenhouse-effect/

        For an actual, peer-reviewed review paper I’d recommend: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.endeavour.2016.07.002

        *Source: I am a professional scientist and I use spectroscopy tools in my research lab. I am not a climate scientist but I use the same physics to understand how light interacts with living tissue. I love aviation and I agree there are plenty of proposed “snake oil” solutions to reducing CO2 emissions. We can and should debate skeptically about these. I find this hybrid solution proposed in the article far more credible than any near-term, electric only solution for transport category aircraft, for example.

        **Climate change due to elevated CO2 in the atmosphere is the overwhelming consensus of nearly all credible scientists today. Uncertainty remains over long-term predictions, and what to be done about CO2 emissions remains a political question open for debate. However, the underlying science is not up for debate, regardless of whatever confirmation-bias supporting (and non peer-reviewed) websites you bring up.

        • Objection!

          People I refer to provide information on and links to many scientific papers, thousands of them peer-reviewed (rather than pal-reviewed as exposed by the leak from the CRU). Stephen McIntyre is an expert in statistical analysis, you should read his expose of a paper claiming Antarctica is warming – reality is that the long peninsula warmed a bit but the continent cooled a bit. Stephen is an honourable man.

          You peddle the ‘consensus’ lie, which came from a shoddy obscure survey by someone defenders of humans did not recognize so ignored his email.

          Whereas 36,000 people with science degrees signed a petition urging government to stop believing alarmists.

          Note too that ‘consensus’ is a fallacy as it depends on the society having it or the authority that isn’t questioned – read history of The Church’s oppression of Galileo (and today Putin). A mob is consensus.

          • With respect, you may object all you like, but you still have not provided a rational or scientific counterargument (or publication) to any of my points. Frankly, you seem motivated by ideology rather than serious debate, so this will be my one and only reply in this thread.

            I’d like to think that we are all on the same side here- the promotion of aviation. I haven’t presented any “alarmist” perspective- I agree that such climate alarmists exist and should be debated.

            Calling for an end to all aviation activities and obsessing about one’s climate footprint is folly. You won’t find me gluing myself to the street or flying a drone illegally at a major airport to disrupt traffic. However, it is the failure to acknowledge reality that I find troublesome among the aviation community. Yes, my Warrior contributes to climate change- a tiny drop in the bucket, but a drop nonetheless. Policy change is needed to significantly impact the future in ways most of us won’t live long enough to realize. There are ways to do this that do not cripple aviation. Are we capable of long-term thinking like this?

      • Duh? Because you and your fellow travelers are trying to harm aviation and poor people, in my judgement based on the performance of you all.

        Your post shows the deviousness typical of climate catastrophists in my experience. You should ask your mirror why.

        Note you evade that there is NOT runaway climate warming that you all claim.

    • Battery powered vehicles have their niche – think golf carts and utility vehicles that go to a job and sit for a while (like post office vans for walking routes, and gardeners and such (seen at UW in Seattle).

      Solar power and wind generation have their niche, used decades ago for mountaintop radio repeaters and people on farms who could afford them. Windmill well pumps were common in eastern IA long ago, you can see remains of some (today pumps are on the big electrical grid).

      Plants like CO2 so much that some greenhouses enrich the atmosphere inside, they have to be careful working because they enrich far far beyond what is in the atmosphere.

      Obscure factoid: our bodies need a small amount of CO2 to function.

  2. I’m at a loss to understand how a hybrid drive train in an aeroplane makes any significant sense. Normally the advantage is that when an internal combustion engine is regularly varying its rpm wildly e.g. in stop-go urban traffic, when the engine is on it can immediately go to its most efficient rpm and stay there until the battery is charged. This makes for a potentially significant improvement in the efficiency of the engine.
    In an aircraft, once it is at cruising speed/altitude the rpm is almost constant and mixture adjusted for most economical use for any given circumstance. So, what use is lugging around enormous battery as well as the internal combustion engine, all its necessary complex ancillary systems, fuel et cetera?
    The whole idea sounds a bit like the answer to a question that has not been asked.
    On the other hand a fully electric aircraft makes huge sense although obviously currently only for relatively short journeys.
    Perhaps someone who actually knows what they’re talking about can enlighten me…?

    • Martin, we’re both waiting on the answer to this. The premise is that adding a big battery & electric motor to an aircraft that is basically still combustion powered will somehow result in a better & cheaper commercial flying machine. In my mind that simply doesn’t seem to make sense, and I have yet to see any cogent explanation of how it could.

  3. There might be some advantage to electric motor placements on the airframe or, more useful, the increased reliability of having a battery pack available for climb and to continue flight somewhat when the I.C. engine quits. Having said that, no one deserves a halo for exporting their pollution to the power plant and battery factory etc. etc. Also, the general ignorance about CO2 in our worlds life cycle is appalling. Plants breathe it and ultimately feed us. The early earth had much higher CO2 concentrations and the plant life thrived massively, leaving oil, gas, and coal deposits in the underground past. The current levels of CO2 are merely subsistence living for the remaining plant life. They ate it all up.

  4. Electric motors clearly can be better than ICE. They have fewer moving parts, need fewer subsystems, are much more efficient and clearly are quieter. They are lighter, more compact and the list goes on.

    If they cause CO2 to be produced I care not at all and do not list this as an electric advantage, but even so they are better in many categories.

    The problem is batteries suck for aviation purposes, and due to the limitations of the periodic table always will and are a dead end. The reason this is being pushed is political and ideological, it has nothing to doo with aviation.

    HFC technology has potential for providing power, but Li batteries, no.

  5. Looks good to me. If it didn’t work, technically or financially, they wouldn’t do it. No point in bleating on about what you don’t like, or understand about it. Reality doesn’t care whether or not you live in it.

    • Looks good technically and financially? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
      Pure nonsense. If it can’t in the near future stand on its own mechanically and economically, anyone including the government is foolish for investing, but then most of us constantly see our tax dollars wasted in similar ways.

  6. Will everyone here with an advanced degree in, and a career studying, climate science please raise their hands? All I hear are the same old quasi-political arguments rehashed in an aviation forum.

    This is not a zero-sum game: If engineers could get funding to develop a Star Trek transporter, how would that be any skin off your cyranos? The development of flying machines was anything but a straight line and enormously dependent on unanticipated scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs. And wars.

    The last environmentally-friendly fuel that humans used for transportation was hay, but those engines were ‘way too heavy to get off the ground. But their exhaust was good for the Earth.

    As for future aircraft energy sources, I’ve never heard so many creatures arguing in favor of continuing to use their own fossilized remains.

    • Not a climate scientist, but I am a professional scientist that is familiar with the underlying physics of radiative transport. I share your concerns about “quasi-political arguments” that constantly get rehashed on here. There is a lack of scientific literacy that is a little troubling. That CO2 emissions from human activity are influencing the climate is well-established. This is reality. What to do about this climate change is a worthwhile debate to have that may venture into politics. I agree entirely with you that this is in no way a zero sum game.

      The arguments which deny anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for climate change that are often cited here are frankly, non-scientific misinformation and cite unreliable sources. Being the internet, it’s very easy to find a random website that will confirm your beliefs- that doesn’t mean that it is scientifically accurate or rigorous.

      Aviation is a critical engine that drives the economy, and it is also an industry reliant on CO2 generation for now. It is responsible for relatively little CO2 emission overall; a rational argument can be made for addressing the lowest hanging fruit sooner (power generation, ground transportation, etc) while we continue to seek engineering solutions to reduce CO2 generation coming from the aviation sector. The development of these solutions will be anything like a straight line, as you cogently have stated.

      • To be more precise, anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for *some* climate change; the climate will change, from many factors, with or without humans.
        I believe that humans would do better in somewhat warmer rather than somewhat colder climates, and at least one climate scientist has postulated that we are near to staving off the next ice age. I’m not against that, ultimately, but I won’t be around.
        Batteries are horrible; they are like very weak fuel that gets weaker as you use it, but never burns off mass. Using solar or nuclear to produce hydrogen via electrolysis may be a convoluted but useful solution. I hope to live long enough to see some sort of *viable* electric flight.

        • Thank you for a thoughtful and intellectually honest reply. I share your hope that someday we may be able to realize some form of viable electric flight. I also think it’s wise to consider the practicality of batteries and their disposal or recycling as well, as we look towards electrification of ground transportation. Hydrogen is certainly intriguing- not something that seems particularly viable for ground transportation – individual automobiles, for example- but perhaps could have some impact in other sectors.

      • Please show me the definitive studies showing a direct correlation between an increase in CO2 and increasing temperatures. There are none. There are a lot of crowing politicians and scientists who are paid from government grants, who have told us it is so. And a bunch of computer simulations, with various assumptions. Atmospheric CO2 is a trace gas, 400 parts per million, 0.04% of the atmosphere. There are many, many factors which influence our climate and its change; and it’s been changing for billions of years. Please tell me why we had the medieval warming period between 900 and 1300. No industrialization back then.

        • There are myriad publicly available datasets which show the relationship you seem to question. If you’d like to analyze the raw data yourself, please see climate. gov/climatedashboard

          You cite 400 ppm, but you should note, per the available data that “The annual rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 60 years is about 100 times faster than previous natural increases, such as those that occurred at the end of the last ice age 11,000-17,000 years ago.”

          I’m not trying to be alarmist or to make any claims about the future, but the trend is quite clear. Ignoring reality is silly, it’s time to move on. We can continue to enjoy aviation and we can continue to innovate for future, lower carbon engineering solutions. It’s not either / or.

          *I should note, these data were compiled by NOAA, the same organization that runs the NWS, which provides the forecast products we all use via ForeFlight, GarminPilot, aviationweather.gov. Yes- the same government source you presumably trust to ensure a safe flight.

          • Why no warming the last 20 years? Why have the prognosticators missed all of their dire predictions? Are you on board with the prediction that we have 10 years until climate catastrophe, which has been touted for the last 30 years? How did we go from the coming ice age in the 70’s to global warming in the 90’s? What anthropological activity resulted in the Medieval warming period? Michael Mann conveniently ignored that period when concocting his hockey stick theory, which the IPCC swallowed hook, line. and sinker, until it didn’t. And his theory was based on the study of a few tree rings. We should have learned from Galileo that consensus among scientists is a meaningless methodology. Climate Change is the religion of the left, and it has very little to do with climate, but more about consolidating power, controlling the populace, and taxing the hell out of us when all we’ll be able to do is wistfully recall ages past when when use to enjoy magnificent flight burning carbon fuels. And by then I predict we’ll be freezing our collective asses off; we’re due for the beginning of the next ice age…some climatologists believe we’re at the beginning on another Maunder Minimum now. Brrrr…I’m not looking forward to that. I much prefer global warming.

  7. Harbor Air in Vancouver has gone a long way forward on the technical aspects of electric motor for their Beaver aircraft and has the ideal air routes. That was a long time ago and yet I have not seen any headlines about them flying electric aside from their tests.
    Flying at max gross all the time will be a new experience for all electric pilots.

    The whole electric airplane thing is sheer lunacy. Ranks with travel to Mars.

    • Read my posts to see brief notes on where HA is at with electric.

      (You have to stumble around their site to find pages especially earlier ones like first flight – which took place in late 2019, don’t know what you are saying about long ago.

      Certainly agree is lunacy but the boss of HA has imbibed the cool-aid: https://www.harbourair.com/corporate-responsibility/goingelectric/
      Claims to be carbon neutral already? Pfft.

      It’s probably still his money though was a fling with ‘Chinese’ money for operations there – that may have been reversed. HA did set up a small subsidiary in Malta.

      HA operates under more than one name, perhaps still some it purchased such as Salt Spring Air, had a land-based charter airline. (Its airplanes are convertible land-water but Tantalus Air used a PC-12 for speed.) Has been seasonally exchanging Twin Otters with the renowned Ken Borek Air in Calgary, as seasons complement considering BC coast and Arctic/Antarctica.

  8. You know, the inflight electrical fires due to overheated batteries and electrical shorts in electric airplanes will be something spectacular to behold. I remember all the scary warnings and procedures regarding runaway NiCad batteries in airplanes. Eventually everyone changed out to lead acid.