An all-electric version of one of the world’s best-known small utility airplanes hummed through its first flight today at Moses Lake in central Washington state.
Redmond, Wash.-based MagniX and Seattle-based AeroTEC were in charge of the test, which focused on the performance of a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan powered by MagniX’s 750-horsepower Magni500 propulsion system.
During today’s 30-minute-long test flight, the hum of the modified eCaravan’s motor was drowned out by the relative roar of the chase plane’s engine. “The small Cessna is making about double the noise,” MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski said during his webcast commentary.
AeroTEC test pilot Steve Crane took the plane up as high as 2,500 feet during what he termed a “flawless” test flight.
Ganzarski played up the significance of the moment when the plane landed back at Moses Lake’s Grant County International Airport, which commonly serves as an aviation testing ground and storage facility.
“You just witnessed history — the world’s largest all-electric aircraft,” he said.
You could argue with that claim: For example, the Swiss-built Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, which relied entirely on solar-generated electricity and made a round-the-world circuit in 2015-2016, boasted a 236-foot wingspan and weighed 5,060 pounds. In comparison, a Cessna Grand Caravan has a 52-foot wingspan and typically weighs 4,700 pounds.
It’d be harder to argue with the significance of the eCaravan experiment. No one will be taking a plane like Solar Impulse 2 out for a spin anytime soon, but all-electric versions of planes like the nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan could someday be a common sight in the skies above.