EasyJet’s electric 186-seat narrowbody set for 2023 flight tests

Manufacturer takes ‘crucial step’ towards achieving commercially viable electric flight for almost 200 people
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An electric aircraft capable of carrying 186 people could begin operating commercially in 2030 after an aerospace manufacturer took a sizeable step forward in its new plane concept.

Wright Electric, which has partnered with Europe’s EasyJet, announced it is engineering electrical systems at the megawatt scale which will be necessary for commercial flight for its 186 seat electric aircraft.

It is building a 1.5 MW electric motor and inverter at 3 kilovolts. These components will form the powerplant of Wright’s Wright 1 aircraft.

Wright Electric is in discussions with BAE Systems relating to flight controls and energy management systems. The firm intends to conduct ground tests of its motor in 2021 and flight tests in 2023.

At an event the company held in New York City last week, Wright demonstrated a preview of its motor and fan.

The motor development program is the next step towards building its narrowbody class aircraft.

Wright will be simultaneously conducting aerodynamic tests on its fuselage, which will inform the propulsion design.

The company expects entry of service of its flagship Wright 1 in 2030. A number of government agencies in the United States are aiding research by providing funding into electric aviation including NASA and Air Force Research Laboratory. 

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said: “This is another crucial step for our partner Wright Electric to move towards the introduction of commercial electric aircraft and it is exciting to see their ambitious timeline for testing and entry into service.   

“Battery technology is advancing at pace with numerous US government agencies now funding research into electric aviation– all of these developments help us to more clearly see a future of more sustainable operations.

“We know it is important to our customers that we operate as sustainably as possible – our carbon offsetting programme has been positively received by our customers and we have now offset more than nine million passenger journeys – but we are clear this is an interim solution until new technologies become available and we can see more clearly than ever a future that is not exclusively reliable on jet fuel.”

Jeffrey Engler, CEO of Wright Electric, added: “Wright Electric is dedicated to bringing low-emissions 186 seat electric planes systems to market. Wright Electric’s mission is to make commercial aviation greener, and our megawatt engine program is the next step in making our mission a reality.” 

Dr Ehtisham Siddiqui, general manager of controls and avionics solutions at BAE Systems, commented: “We are discussing collaboration opportunities with Wright Electric on the development of flight controls and energy management systems for its electric aircraft. Our new development builds on decades of experience in both domains, as we strive to shape the future of flight.”

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