Bye Aerospace has been in discussions with on-demand charter companies to use its Sun Flyer 4—a four-passenger, 165-knot electric aircraft—for air taxi service, the company said. It is currently developing the all-electric Sun Flyer Models 2 and 4 that are priced at $289,000 and $389,000, respectively.
“We are being contacted by proactive, forward-thinking companies,” said Bye CEO George Bye. “They understand the low-cost operating benefits and market potential of using four-seat electric aircraft for a comfortable shorter-haul, on-demand air transportation service.” Bye said possible markets include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Miami.
The Sun Flyer 4 is slated to have a payload capacity of 850 pounds, a cabin width of 46 inches, and direct operating costs of $19.80 per hour. Bye plans to develop the aircraft following completion of its smaller Sun Flyer 2 two-seat training aircraft. A conformal prototype of that aircraft is scheduled to fly in mid-2019, Bye said, and between the two models Bye said the company has received 220 orders to date.
He estimated the cost of completing the Model 2 through certification at approximately $25 million. The company plans to develop the Model 2 and then the Model 4.
Bye called the much-hyped electrical vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft promoted by Uber and others “a vision of the future,” while saying conventional aircraft with electric power are an application for “today.” The latter, he added, could use existing small general aviation airports and existing air traffic control infrastructure to economically meet burgeoning needs for economical flight training, air taxi service within major urban markets, and small package delivery.
Bye said the price advantage for flight training in an all-electric aircraft was particularly dramatic, with fuel cost at just $3 per hour compared to $45 to $50 per hour in a conventional trainer fueled with avgas.
Citing a study by Boeing, Bye said 790,000 new pilots will be needed over the next 20 years and that 80 percent of all student pilots fail to complete their training, mainly due to cost considerations. He also noted that the nation’s current general aviation training fleet is on average more than 50 years old.
“This is the opportunity to pivot general aviation into the future,” Bye concluded.