Electric Miniliner Concept Could Connect Smaller Communities

 - February 12, 2021, 9:31 AM
Pipistrel's electric-powered Miniliner would have 20 seats for passengers and crew. (Image: Pipistrel)

Pipistrel is working on plans for a 20-seat electric fixed-wing aircraft to provide regional flight connections between smaller communities using runways of no more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) in length. The company designed the Miniliner primarily to provide scheduled air service on routes of between 200 and 1,000 km (125 to 625 miles), including what the Slovenia company describes as “microfeeder” services to larger hub airports.

Building on its experience in developing electric light aircraft such as its Velis Electro model, Pipistrel is advancing conceptual designs for the Miniliner in partnership with several universities and under the auspices of the European Union-based Unifier19 project to encourage new air mobility services for smaller communities. It will hold a total of 20 seats to accommodate both passengers and crew.

According to Pipistrel, the proposed aircraft will be able to operate from grass airstrips. An early conceptual drawing shows an airframe around the size of a large-cabin business jet, with a pair of forward-facing propellers on the upper surface of the wing and another rear-facing pair of propellers on winglets. The design also features a twin tail.

Pipistrel said the aircraft could be ready to enter commercial service between 2028 and 2030. In a February 11 statement, the company noted that it is evaluating multiple powertrain solutions, suggesting that a hydrogen-based propulsion system could satisfy its “non-negotiable requirements for zero-emission, quiet, and safe operations.”

As the program gathers momentum, Pipistrel is engaging with EASA and European air traffic management research body SESAR, which is run by Eurocontrol. The company recently took part in flight tests for the Modular Approach to Hybrid-Electric Propulsion Architecture program, which is backed by the EU’s Horizon 2020 fund.

Pipistrel has been working on a possible eVTOL aircraft design for some years. In 2020, it indicated that it would give that work lower priority in favor of efforts involving electric cargo aircraft and other programs. 

This story is from FutureFlight.aero, a news and information resource developed by AIN to provide objective, independent coverage and analysis of cutting-edge aviation technology, including electric aircraft developments and advanced air mobility.