Alaskan airline Ravn Alaska intends to purchase electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) planes developed by San Francisco-area start-up Airflow.
The Anchorage-based airline, which currently operates De Havilland Canada Dash 8-100s on regional routes in Alaska, has signed a letter of intent to acquire up to 50 of Airflow’s developing planes, Airflow reported on June 8.
Neither company discloses whether Ravn paid any money under the deal. Airflow expects its planes to be in service in 2025.
Launched in 2019 by five executives who previously worked on Airbus’ now flap-type Vahana electric aircraft program, Airflow is developing at least two eSTOL variants – the Model 100 and the Model 200.
The aircraft will be able to land on traditional runways, which differentiates Airflow from the many competing companies – Archer Aviation and Wisk Aero, for example – which are developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Airflow says its design faces fewer regulatory and technical challenges than eVTOLs, which typically require somewhat new designs involving either swivel attachments or a mix of forward and downward facing props. In addition, many eVTOLs under development will require new disembarkation port infrastructure.
“Airflow’s hybrid-electric aircraft can enter service without any new infrastructure requirements and
Limited certification barriers compared to other entrants in the electric aviation market, ”the company said.
While Airflow confirms that it is working on passenger variants, its website only lists specifications for cargo configurations.
The Model 100 will have the capacity to carry 227 kg (500 lbs) of cargo, a range of 217 nm (402 km) and the ability to take off and land over a runway distance of 46 m (150 feet), the website. The Model 200 will have a load capacity of 907 kg, a range of 805 km and a required take-off and landing distance of 61 m.
The aircraft can be used to “supplement existing freight routes” and allow operators to benefit from the growing e-commerce market. They will cost a third less to operate than helicopters or eVTOLs, according to Airflow.
Airflow expects its aircraft to have a single pilot initially, although the company expects to bring range in future variants.
Airflow founders include Managing Director Marc Ausman, former chief strategist of Vahana, CTO Peter Kalogiannis, formerly head of Vahana aircraft integration and testing, and former Vahana employees Don Fung, Geoffrey DuBridge and Robbie Bunge.
Airbus closed its Vahana project in 2019.