Ultra-short takeoff and landing plane rakes in $8 billion in pre-orders
In all the buzz around eVTOLs, there's still plenty of appetite for more conventional electric planes – especially, it seems, if they make ludicrous amounts of lift, and can take off and land at incredibly slow speeds, using absolutely tiny runways.
Electra's hybrid-electric STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft is one such plane. When it hits the market, it'll carry nine passengers, and a pilot, plus luggage, up to 500 miles (805 km) at a cruise speed around 200 mph (322 km/h). It'll run eight electric props along the leading edge of the wings, as well as large flaps hanging from the trailing edges. This allows a "blown lift" aerodynamic effect powerful enough that it'll lift off at a speed of just 35 mph (56 km/h).
And it'll accelerate to that speed quickly – meaning that you can use a runway smaller than a soccer pitch. Electra says it'll operate from airfields as small as 300 x 100 ft (92 x 31 m), and in the video above, seems to imply that'll fit on the top of some buildings. Either way, it's one-tenth the size of a standard runway, so even if these things won't open up as many spaces as eVTOLs, they'll still be extremely flexible.
Plus, as investors are no doubt pleased to note, it functions more or less as a regular plane, so the path to certification and commercial deployment should be much smoother and easier to navigate, with plenty of precedents and fewer unknowns than the eVTOL teams face.
Electra flew a two-seat prototype in November, as shown in the video above, and it'll continue flight tests as it works on a full-scale nine-seat prototype that's scheduled to fly in 2026. The target date for certification and entry into service is sometime in 2028.
And the market is listening, it seems. Electra says it's taken pre-orders for more than 2,000 aircraft, worth more than US$8 billion. That's considerably higher than the biggest pre-seller in the eVTOL field – Vertical Aerospace, which has 1,500 aircraft pre-sold for a total over $5 billion.
That's pretty fascinating – eSTOL represents a much more conventional approach with far less disruptive, world-changing potential than eVTOLs, which in theory could have us zooming from rooftop to rooftop in and around urban areas within a few years.
But the market likes this small-runway, half-electric, nine-passenger, regional-capable proposition enough to sign $8 billion dollars' worth of pre-orders – eight times as much revenue as Cessna brings in a year, according to Growjo. Seems odd to us, but such are the times!