Surf Air Confirms Electrified Cessna Grand Caravan EX Purchase
Surf Air Mobility (SAM), a company that offers a platform for air transportation services loosely similar to an aviation Uber or Lyft, has secured a previously announced exclusive deal with Textron Aviation Inc., to develop and operate electrified versions of the Cessna Grand Caravan EX, a single-engine turboprop aircraft.
SAM has announced payment of a deposit for 20 of these aircraft, with an option for 50 more, and expects to receive them starting from 2024. SAM had previously announced an agreement to purchase up to 150 Cessna Grand Caravan EX (100 aircraft order with 50 aircraft options) in 2021. The 20 aircraft deposit is for Grand Caravan EXs that are part of that 2021 order.
The initial version of the Cessna Grand Caravan EX will use a hybrid-electric system that the company claims will lower fuel consumption, operating costs, and carbon emissions.
SAM aims to get FAA certification for this technology by 2026, and to offer it to other operators of the Cessna Grand Caravan. SAM will also be the sole provider to Textron Aviation of certain battery electric and hybrid electric powertrain technology for the Cessna Grand Caravan. SAM has described plans to develop and field a pure battery electric solution for their Grand Caravan EX but will lead with the hybrid electric system.
SAM plans to use the electrified Cessna Grand Caravan EX to offer short-haul direct flights between regional airports, connecting communities with a more sustainable and efficient air transport system. The company says the hybrid-electric version will not need any new infrastructure, and will have similar performance to the existing models, which can carry up to 14 passengers or 1,300 pounds of cargo with full fuel.
SAM claims the hybrid-electric version will deliver lower direct operating costs of 25-50% and direct carbon emission reductions in the range of 50-100%. The announcement in 2021 described the configuration as 9 passenger seating variant.
Textron says the Cessna Grand Caravan EX has more than 3,000 units in service and over 24 million flight hours. The type operates in missions ranging from flight training to recreation, commuter airlines to VIP transport, cargo carriers and humanitarian services, according to the company. The Cessna Grand Caravan EX version was optimized for higher payloads and short, rough runways.
If the collaboration succeeds it will mark a significant step in the advancement of sustainable aviation without the costs and consequences of so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
Decades of experience contributing to Flight International, Aviation Week, KCRW, NPR, and appearances on the Discovery, Military and History Channels.