JSX, a United States premium regional and charter carrier currently operating a fleet of small jets, has announced an order for up to 332 hybrid-electric aircraft.
The US airline has allocated the large order to three different startups, each currently developing a hybrid-electric aircraft model in a different size category.
In total, JSX is ordering 82 (32 firm orders and 50 options) nine-seater eSTOL aircraft from Virginia-based Electra, up to 150 (50 firm orders and 100 options) 19-seater ERA Regional aircraft from Toulouse, France-based Aura Aero, and 100 units (50 firm orders and 50 options) of the ES-30 30-seater aircraft being developed by Swedish startup Heart Aerospace.
Deliveries of the aircraft could start as early as 2028, provided that developers are able to get their models certified by the relevant authorities (the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in this case).
Regional hybrid-electric conventional take-off and landing aircraft are seen by many in the industry as the fastest and least risky path to the development of a low-carbon aviation industry. Unlike other advanced air mobility concepts, they leverage many of the proven and tested aerodynamic principles and constructive technologies already used by conventional aircraft.
However, by partly using electric propulsion developers of this new generation of aircraft expect to be able to significantly lower operational costs. JSX is counting on this to be able to expand low-carbon air services to many regional and local airports throughout the US, often serving communities that are too small to be served by the large, traditional airlines.
This approach would come as a natural evolution of the charter public model used by JSX. This operational model is restricted to aircraft with up to 30 seats and it is regulated by a set of rules that differ from that of traditional airlines, offering operators such as JSX with some extra flexibility.
The FAA, supported by most of the mainline airlines, is said to be looking at ways to restrict the activity of public charter operators and force them to operate under the same guidelines as many larger carriers. This move has been strongly opposed by JSX, which has been calling on its customers to voice support for the existing model.