The Alice prototype, all-electric aircraft has taken its first flight at Grant County International Airport (MWH) in Moses Lake, Washington, eagerly watched by factory staff and invited press crew.
For the test flight, Alice ascended to 3 500 feet, and then landed again, for a total flight time of eight minutes.
If certified by the US-FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to carry passengers, the aircraft could become the first all-electric commercial aircraft to enter service for airlines.
“Today’s first flight provided Eviation with invaluable data to further optimize the aircraft for commercial production. We will review the flight data to understand how the performance of the aircraft matched our models,” Eviation CEO and President Gregory Davis told press.
What Eviation (and many other ambitious electric and hybrid flight companies) envision is an activation of many new points of travel, like regional airports primarily used by cargo companies and private aircraft owners. Cheap, clean flights between these smaller hubs could simplify both commutes and cargo operations.
Eviation believes that smaller, quieter aircraft delivering packages to local delivery hubs make sense. Also, investment from municipal or county governments to reactivate a bit of disused but valuable infrastructure could help defray the cost of updating regional airports.
Designed by engineers in Washington state and Israel, and built by start-up company Eviation, the Alice is built to carry nine passengers and two pilots, flying at an altitude of about 15 000 feet (4 572 meters). The Alice is powered by a pair of MagniX engines, using
21 500 small ’Tesla-style’ batteries, developed and supplied from AVL. It has a max air speed of about 260 knots.
Eviation’s goal is to show that electric aircraft are viable as commuter aircraft.
Sceptics have voiced their concerns over the technology, saying that batteries are not yet ready for aviation. Just one faulty cell can start an uncontained fire, and this will be fatal, especially during flight.
It is already a known fact that a European competitor’s prototype suffered an electrical fault with its batteries in flight, and was destroyed by fire, with fatal results.
Already in Jan 2020, Eviation lost their first prototype to a fire, when it was damaged in ground testing. No injuries were reported in that incident. Eviation said at the time, that it believes the fire was caused by a ground-based battery system.