Famed French aviation company lends its name to new hybrid aircraft
From 1935 to 1948, French manufacturer Avions Mauboussin was known for its light sporting aircraft. Its name has now been revived, by a French startup that plans on building hybrid STOL (short take-off and landing) airplanes.
Many readers will already be familiar with VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, which are a popular choice for proposed "flying taxis." With their ability to perform helicopter-like take-offs and landings, the vehicles could pick passengers up from urban locations such as office tower rooftops. Once they reached cruising altitude, though, they would switch to faster, more efficient fixed-wing forward flight.
One challenge in the development of practical VTOLs lies in the fact that they have to produce a lot of downward thrust, which requires a lot of power. That's where the more conventional STOLs come in.
Although they can't move straight up and down, they do nonetheless require much shorter runways than regular airplanes. This means that they could conceivably take off and land at small, centrally located "pocket airports," saving inter-city commuters the time and hassle of having to travel to and from full-size airfields on the outskirts of town.
Avions Mauboussin is currently working on two such aircraft. The first – which is being designed in collaboration with the Université de Technologie de Belfort-Montbéliard and other industrial partners – is a two-seater called the Alérion M1h.
It will initially use an electric motor for take-offs and landings (keeping things quiet at the pocket airports), switching over to an internal combustion engine while cruising. This powertrain, along with the use of lightweight natural composite building materials, should give it a range of several hundred kilometers and a cruising speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). It will eventually be powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell.
The second plane – named the Alcyon M3c – will seat five passengers, have a range of 1,500 km (932 miles), and a cruising speed of 370 km/h (230 mph). Like the M1h, it will start out with a hybrid powertrain, then later make the switch to hydrogen power. Dual propellers at the end of each wing are intended to "recover energy otherwise lost in the wingtip vortex."
A company representative tells us that the STOL performance of both models comes from the sophisticated design of their wing airfoil and high-lift devices (i.e: the slats and flaps), combined with their low structural weight. As a result, they should have a very low stall speed.
Plans call for the hybrid version of the Alérion M1h to make its first flight in 2022, followed by a commercial rollout (and first flight of the hydrogen version) in 2024. Commercialization of the Alcyon M3c should follow, in 2026.
Source: Avions Mauboussin