Bye and BlackBird Agree on Electric Airplane Buy

 - May 30, 2019, 8:26 AM
Bye Aerospace flew its eFlyer 2 earlier this year as it strives to be the first to bring an all-electric Part 23-certified aircraft to the flight training market. (Photo: Bye Aerospace).

Bye Aerospace has signed a deal with charter broker BlackBird Air for the purchase of 110 eFlyer electric airplanes. BlackBird plans to provide the airplanes to its charter operator and commercial pilot partners to use for BlackBird-sourced flights.  

Bye is developing two eFlyer versions, the two-seat eFlyer 2 (formerly the SunFlyer) and the four-seat eFlyer 4. After FAA certification, the two-seater could start deliveries in 2021, according to Bye Aerospace senior vice president Diane Simard, followed a year later by the eFlyer 4. The base price for the two-seater is $349,000 and the four-seater $449,000. The standard-equipped versions will include an airframe parachute, air-conditioning, VFR avionics, and an angle-of-attack indicator. Premium options that will be offered include IFR avionics, autopilot, and interior and exterior upgrades.

The eFlyer 2 will be powered by a Siemens electric motor capable of delivering 70 kW continuous or 90 kW peak power. With a top speed of 138 knots, it will be capable of flying for three hours with a VFR day reserve (30 minutes) or 210 nm (with reserve). Payload is 450 pounds, mtow 2,000 pounds, and takeoff roll 1,100 feet. Bye Aerospace has applied for FAA Part 23 certification for the eFlyer 2, which made its first flight April 10, 2018. 

The four-seat eFlyer 4 will carry a payload of 850 pounds and fly for 4.2 hours or 350 nm with VFR reserve, also powered by a Siemens motor (90 kW continuous, 105 kW peak power). With a mtow of 3,400 pounds, it will be able to fly up to 165 knots at lower altitude and 190 ktas at higher altitudes. Both airplanes will feature Garmin G3X avionics. 

Bye Aerospace projects a recharging time for the eFlyer’s batteries of about 30 minutes to reach 85 to 90 percent of a full charge, using a “supercharger” charging system. 

BlackBird connects travelers with Part 135-certified charter operators and also pairs customers, who “rent a plane and hire a commercial pilot to fly,” according to BlackBird Air founder and CEO Rudd Davis. He explained that BlackBird isn’t facilitating the type of flight-sharing where private pilots invite people to fly and share expenses. “Only commercial pilots are allowed to use the BlackBird platform. [This] follows the approach businesses have used for decades, they rent planes and hire pilots to fly them.”

When the eFlyers become available, Rudd explained, “BlackBird will be placing the electric aircraft with our primary operational partners (Part 135) in every region of the U.S. We’re focused on providing our customers with all the options that meet their needs, from low-cost small aircraft to large, more expensive options. We’re always looking for ways to lower prices because we want to make general aviation accessible to a much larger customer base. This is where electric aircraft come in.”

The trips in the eFlyers, he said, will be “initially on shorter flights but as the power density improves in later generations, so too will range. At less than $50 an hour to operate, the eFlyer 4 is the future of aviation.”

Neither Bye Aerospace nor BlackBird revealed any details of the financial arrangements between the two companies.