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JetSuite has lost no time putting its Qatar investment money to good use: On Monday, aviation startup Zunum Aero announced that the private jet charter company will be its inaugural customer for a new hybrid-electric aircraft, with an estimated delivery date sometime in 2022. While no financial details were released, JetSuite could potentially commit to purchase up to 100 planes from Zunum Aero.
Zunum Aero‘s aircraft for JetSuite will primarily be built of composite materials. Two engines mounted just in front of the distinctive V-tail will be powered by “Tesla-style” electric propulsion packs located to the rear of the passenger cabin, which will allow the Zunum Aero plane to carry relatively little fuel over the aircraft’s anticipated range of 700 miles.
The Zunum Aero’s 340 mph cruise speed is almost 10% faster than similarly sized commercial planes currently in use, such as Pilatus and King Air aircraft. Because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires two pilots for 10 or more passengers on commercial aircraft, the initial 12-passenger design will most likely be modified to seat nine passengers.
Planes this size typically serve private charter companies like JetSuite that offer on-demand air taxi services between neighboring cities for business executives who prefer to fly in and out of smaller airports to avoid the hassle of commercial travel.
Zunum Aero CEO Ashish Kumar believes his innovative aircraft will make private aviation more accessible to a wider sector of the population. Kumar, an aerospace engineering Ph.D who previously held senior executive roles with Google and Microsoft, estimates the Zunum Aero will cost around $250 per flight hour to operate. In comparison, non-electric planes currently in use average between $600–1,000 per flight hour in operations costs.
Kumar sees the JetSuite aircraft as its first in a range of hybrid-electric designs, including a plane that can carry between 30 to 50 passengers. The ambitious aviation startup is also joining the ranks of companies developing autonomous flying aircraft. The company is backed by investors including HorizonX, Boeing’s venture capital subsidiary, as well as the state of Washington.
All images by Zunum Aero.
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