Aircraft

Wheels up, as the gorgeous, electric Eviation Alice takes flight

Wheels up, as the gorgeous, electric Eviation Alice takes flight
A historic moment for zero-emissions flight, as the 9-seat Alice commuter plane makes its first test flight
A historic moment for zero-emissions flight, as the 9-seat Alice commuter plane makes its first test flight
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A historic moment for zero-emissions flight, as the 9-seat Alice commuter plane makes its first test flight
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A historic moment for zero-emissions flight, as the 9-seat Alice commuter plane makes its first test flight
Alice completed an 8-minute test flight at altitudes up to 3,500 ft
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Alice completed an 8-minute test flight at altitudes up to 3,500 ft
Alice is an experimentally registered prototype at this stage
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Alice is an experimentally registered prototype at this stage
Eviation is targeting 2026 for FAA certification and entry into service
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Eviation is targeting 2026 for FAA certification and entry into service
View gallery - 4 images

After showing off with some extravagant runway wheelies last week, Alice, the "world's first all-electric commuter aircraft," lifted off overnight on a historic first flight. It's another major milestone toward zero-emissions medium-range air travel.

Alice took off at 7.10 am local time from Grant County International Airport in Washington state, and made a short, 8-minute circuit, reaching an altitude of 3,500 ft (1,067 m) before coming in and touching down.

"Today we embark on the next era of aviation – we have successfully electrified the skies with the unforgettable first flight of Alice," said Eviation President and CEO Gregory Davis. "People now know what affordable, clean and sustainable aviation looks and sounds like for the first time in a fixed-wing, all-electric aircraft. This ground-breaking milestone will lead innovation in sustainable air travel, and shape both passenger and cargo travel in the future."

Eviation is targeting 2026 for FAA certification and entry into service
Eviation is targeting 2026 for FAA certification and entry into service

It is indeed a significant moment, although there's a way to go yet. The Alice we see flying in the video below is still an experimentally registered prototype, rather than a fully certified production aircraft. Eviation still has to run it through a full and rigorous flight test regime, and jump through the many hoops of FAA certification, not just for the aircraft and all its systems, but also for the company itself as a design organization and a production facility. The company hopes to have this all squared away and get Alice into service by 2026.

Alice's spec sheet has become a fair bit less impressive over the last year or so as well – when we looked at it in May 2021, this nine-seat luxury machine was running an interesting three-prop propulsion system and a V-tail, and promising 506-mile (814 km) flights to a charge. Now, the tail's a T-shape, there are just two props, the claimed range has dwindled to just 288 miles (463 km), and the max takeoff weight (MTOW) has burgeoned from 14,700 lb (6,668 kg) to 18,400 lb (8,346 kg). On the positive side, the max speed is now up from 253 mph (407 km/h) to 299 mph (481 km/h).

Alice completed an 8-minute test flight at altitudes up to 3,500 ft
Alice completed an 8-minute test flight at altitudes up to 3,500 ft

The reduced range in particular is going to sting, as it'll significantly cut down the number of operating routes Alice can handle. But Eviation says this machine's quiet, zero-emissions flight, and its extremely low operating costs compared to turboprops or light jets, will make a good case for it in the commuter and cargo markets.

Check out the first flight in the video below, although you can't hear anything behind the stock music (Eviation provided a second copy of the video without music, but that one had no audio at all), and there's a head-scratching cut near touchdown that makes us wonder why we're not supposed to see that bit.

Eviation Alice first flight

Source: Eviation

View gallery - 4 images
15 comments
15 comments
paul314
I wonder whether it's feasible to swap out battery tech without going through the whole ground-up certification process from scratch. Because if it is, E-plane companies will be able to take advantage of improvements and have, say double the range on the same aircraft by the early 2030s. (I know there's a process for certifying new engines on fuel-burning aircraft without starting completely from scratch, although it's also not just plug-and-play.)
martinwinlow
@ paul314 - I'd have thought it would depend on how much of a deviation from the original chemistry and BMMS design the upgrade was. Realistically, a sufficiently significant increase in specific/volumetric energy density would imply a fairly serious change in chemistry, such that I'd think it would need re-certifying. Aircraft systems are going to be very much at the pointy end of the safety Vs performance envelope pretty much by definition... Given the newness of all this tech, I'd imagine everyone involved would want be very conservative in their approach... (NPI).
Jezzafool
It's not as 'gorgeous' as it once was :(
alan c
Told you (in a previous New Atlas report I think) that they would have to ditch the wing tip motors because of risk of prop strike.
Robt
@paul314 In a very recent interview with the current CEO, he stated that the energy systems have been designed specifically to take advantage of future battery technology, with as little disruption as is possible.
jerryd
This is extremely important as the likely first commercial E plane. While it's range isn't much, there is a huge number of routes it can do, especially island to island or mainland. Which is what most of planes this size are for.
While started off with the wingtip props, they brought in experts and fixed it very nicely.
nameless minion
Why aren't the wheels stored?
AngryPenguin
@nameless minion - I believe it's part of testing procedures. The first flight is done with wheels down in case something unexpected happens.
JJF
More aptly, it should be called remote-emissions air travel unless charging its battery is by a nuke plant or hydrogen.
P51d007
How many hours does it take to RECHARGE the batteries?
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