The first hybrid-electric plane in Scotland has taken to the skies above Orkney.
Ampaire’s twin-engine Cessna aircraft has been modified to run on both battery power and a conventional combustion engine. It’s hoped the flight could be the first step towards a low-carbon solution for airlines around the world.
Six Orkney islands – Eday, North Ronaldsay, Papa Westray, Sanday, Stronsay and Westray – are currently linked to Kirkwall Airport by Loganair’s inter-isles network and the internal air routes are seen as the perfect test-ground for trialling these kinds of innovative technologies.
Kirkwall Airport is also home to the £3.7m Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) project, created to test low-carbon aviation and the infrastructure needed to make these kinds of flights successful.
Ampaire’s inaugural Scottish flight crossed the Pentland Firth from Kirkwall Airport to Wick John O’Groats Airport - a 37-mile hop over open water at speeds of up to 120mph and an altitude of 3500 feet. A 90-minute rapid charge of the plane’s battery can provide power for around an hour of flight.
The plane had already undergone trials in Hawaii before being shipped to Scotland to take part in its first test flight on a viable regional airline route. The company aims to develop a line of hybrid-electric powertrain upgrades to help reduce emissions and operation costs, allowing regional airlines to operate in a greener, cleaner and more economically-efficient manner in Scotland and elsewhere around the globe.
The SATE test facility at Kirkwall Airport is expected to host other forms of low-carbon flights in the future, including hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels.