Surf Air announces deals to go public, boost rollout of hybrid-electric aircraft

US aviation company Surf Air Mobility has set out plans to merge with a holding company and acquire Southern Airways Express as it bids to create a fleet of regional hybrid electric aircraft. 

Surf Air Mobility (SAM) plans to combine with Tuscan Holdings Corp, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which will result in SAM becoming a publicly listed company.  

SAM also announced on May 18, 2022 plans to acquire Southern Airways Express, the largest passenger operator of Cessna Grand Caravans in the United States. The carrier served over 300,000 passengers and operated more than 60,000 flights in 2021.  

SAM’s plan is to accelerate the adoption of more sustainable flying by electrifying existing regional fleets and it wants to offer manufacturers and operators the possibility to upgrade existing aircraft with hybrid electric engines. 

It has also therefore signed an agreement with aircraft development company AeroTec and electric propulsion firm magniX to develop powertrain technology, with a view to supplying hybrid electric powertrains for the Cessna Grand Caravan.  

Following completion of the transactions and when its powertrain technology is deployed, SAM said it intends to deploy the world’s largest fleet of hybrid electric aircraft on regional routes.  

“We believe deploying hybrid electric propulsion technology on existing aircraft at scale will be the most significant step we can take toward decarbonization of aviation in this decade,” said Sudhin Shahani, Co-founder and CEO of Surf Air Mobility in a statement.  

“We’re at a moment when the increasing consumer demand for faster, affordable, and cleaner regional travel will be met with SAM’s electrification ecosystem to accelerate the industry’s adoption of green flying,” Shahani added.  

Hybrid-electric powertrains are gaining traction. Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR announced plans for a hybrid-electric version of its best-selling turboprop on May 18, 2022. 

 

SAM highlighted that magniX has already flown a fully electric Cessna Grand Caravan 208B. However, SAM says it is designing its initial hybrid-electric Cessna Grand Caravans to have the same flight range as standard combustion versions.  

It says this means they will not require charging stations, new takeoff and landing infrastructure, or changes to zoning, thus allowing the aircraft to operate anywhere in the U.S. 

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