CAE has formed a partnership with Piper Aircraft to develop a supplemental type certificate (STC) for an electric powerplant conversion of the single-engine Piper PA-28-181 Archer light airplane, the companies said Tuesday at the Farnborough Airshow. Under the partnership, Swiss company H55, which provided technology used on the Solar Impulse sun-powered world-rounding airplane, will supply the battery system for the STC. Safran Electrical & Power will supply its EngineUs 100 electric motor that provides a maximum of 150 kW power at takeoff and incorporates an integrated motor controller.
The project draws support from a Project Resilience program under which CAE plans to invest C$1 billion over the next five years in innovation through a partnership with the governments of Canada and Quebec.
In announcing the partnership on Tuesday, CAE president and CEO Marc Parent said the project combines CAE’s “innovative spirit and our commitment to sustainability” and comes as the company celebrates its 75th anniversary. As for the move to electrify the Piper, he noted that new propulsion technology stimulated development over the history of aviation. "We’re seeing it here today," said Parent. "This is a leap forward for CAE.”
Noting that Piper has produced more than 28,000 Archers, Parent added that selecting that model made sense for CAE because it is one of the largest operators of the Piper aircraft. “We literally have hundreds of aircraft and a big portion is Piper Archer aircraft,” he said.
As such, he added Piper is “absolutely positioned to bring in leaders in electrification together…to develop a modification for the aircraft." Parent added the modification will be important for CAE not only in making its training more sustainable but also in helping to train students on the operation of electrical aircraft, which he sees as an important need for the future.
However, plans call for CAE to make the STC available not only for its flight schools but to other operators worldwide. Under the agreement, Piper would have the ability to leverage the STC for its other products and into the production line. Ron Gunnarson, v-p of sales, marketing, and customer support for Piper, said that the approach is similar to the one it took with the Continental CD-155 engine that can run on diesel or jet-A and is offered in an Archer airframe. He added that the company plans to move forward with such evaluations.
Parent was not yet ready to reveal a timeline for the project, only saying, “We’re not talking years.” Pricing is still to come as well.