US electric aviation company Ampaire has commenced a series of flights in the United Kingdom to demonstrate its hybrid-electric technology, which it hopes can open up new regional flights. 

The aircraft, a modified six-seat Cessna 337, flew from Kirkwall Airport (KOI) on the Orkney Isles to regional airport Wick John O’Groats Airport (WIC) in the north of mainland Scotland.

The plane, dubbed the Electric EEL, runs on battery power and a conventional combustion engine. Ampaire said it is the first time trials have been carried out on a viable regional airline route.

Test pilot Justin Gillen said the flight went well. 

“Today’s flight to Wick went without a hitch, flying at 3,500 feet and 120 miles per hour. The Electric EEL is easy to fly and we’ve achieved a total five hours here so far,” Gillen commented.

Ampaire is developing hybrid electric powertrain upgrades to reduce emissions and operating costs by as much as 25% initially. It hopes its aircraft can help make routes more profitable or even bring the costs down to open up more regional flights.

“Hybrid-electric aircraft achieve two objectives: reducing harmful emissions and reducing cost of operations to the point that routes such as Wick-Kirkwall become viable for regional carriers,” Susan Ying, Ampaire SVP for global operations, commented.

The aircraft will now move down to southwest England, where it will carry out further demonstration flights between Exeter and Cornwall.

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American hybrid-electric aircraft Ampaire 337 made its maiden flight  from Camarillo airport, California, on June 6, 2019. Ampair 337 is already hailed by some as the largest hybrid-electric aircraft ever flown, while the company strives to be the first to offer hybrid aircraft in commercial service.