Faradair, the UK company developing a hybrid-electric short takeoff and landing aircraft, is relocating its operation to Duxford airfield. Beginning September 1, the startup will be a tenant in the new Avtech facility being established there as a research and development hub for general aviation ventures by Cambridge University’s Gonville & Caius College on land that it owns.
The Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft (BEHA) being developed by Faradair is due to be ready for a first flight by late 2023 or early 2024. The program will consist of three variants: the hybrid electric M1H; a pilotless M1AT model to be operated autonomously for military roles; and an all-electric E1 that is expected to be available by 2030, subject to the availability of applicable battery or hydrogen fuel cell technology.
The first prototype, which will be built at Duxford, is due to be ready for a first flight by late 2023 or early 2024. The company is still determining whether to pursue civil or military certification first, depending on when it considers EASA's new Part CS23 regulations to be sufficiently "streamlined" to allow certification in two years. It hopes to be able to have the first aircraft ready to enter service in 2026.
The hybrid-electric propulsion system for the first two variants will burn biofuels. Faradair plans to use a turboprop engine in combination with an electric motor. It says that customers will be able to convert these aircraft to all-electric propulsion via a supplemental type certificate.
Faradair managing director Neil Cloughley explained to AIN that the intention is for the BEHA to takeoff using its electric motor, supplemented by the turbine engine. For cruise flight, the turbine engine would take priority to allow the electric motor to regenerate power. The aircraft also will feature electrified landing gear for ground propulsion.
The BEHA is similar in size to the former British Aerospace Jetstream 31 twin turboprop regional airliner, with a wingspan of 55 feet. The preliminary design shows contra-rotating pusher propfans, shrouded with a nacelle to reduce noise. Its “triple box” wing consists of three beams joined together in winglets.
The aircraft is expected to be able to carry 18 passengers or five tonnes of freight on flights of up to around 1,150 miles. It is expected to have a service ceiling of around 14,000 feet and operate at speeds of up to 230 mph. It should be able to takeoff in less than 300 meters (984 feet).
Faradair was formed in 2014 and has been working on design optimization at Swansea University in Wales. The company is holding talks with prospective investors, partners, and customers. The Duxford site in eastern England has been an airfield since the early 20th century and is home to the Imperial War Museum's military aircraft collection.
“Covid-19 has highlighted the global opportunity for cleaner, quieter skies and more sustainable forms of transport, a vision our company has championed for many years now,” Cloughley commented. The UK government has pledged to support the development of carbon-neutral aircraft, having recently allocated further funding to the country’s Aerospace Technology Institute.