An actual, full-sized Cessna 208 lifted off on a flight from Moses Lake, Washington, on Thursday, making it the largest human-piloted electric plane to fly. The flight stayed in the traffic pattern at Grant County International (KMWH), whose 13,503-foot main runway gets a lot of flight-test traffic, specifically from Boeing, which often does contaminated runway tests there.
The flight lasted just 30 minutes, but then again, the maximum endurance of the plane isn’t much longer than that.
The program is being conducted by AeroTEC and magniX, who worked together on a similar program with a de Havilland Beaver, which flew last year. As with the Beaver, the electric propulsion on the Caravan is similar in output to the engines, the Pratt & Whitney PT-6 turboprop. At 750 -hp, the magniX electric motor will do everything the big Pratt will do, just for a much shorter time.
Still, the limitations of the batteries aren’t stopping the companies from talking about the incredibly ambitious plan of earning certification for the plane by next year for use in commercial flights connecting destinations around 100 nm apart, which would give the Caravan enough endurance with reserves to make the trip. Recharging, however, wouldn’t be a quick turn. MagniX says that recharge time is about the same as the flying time, between 30 minutes and an hour, changing out the batteries for freshly charged ones, as is being experimented with on some light planes, isn’t an option on the much larger Caravan.
Even if the prospects for certification are daunting, the team has definitely taken a big step in advancing the future of electric flight.