The UK’s first-ever electric commuter flight will take off from Exeter Airport thanks to £2.4million funding boost.
A consortium successfully bid for the seven-figure sum from UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge.
The team’s £5million ‘2ZERO’ programme is aiming to demonstrate hybrid-electric aircraft on regional routes in the South West.
It will see infrastructure needed to enable the future of electric planes within existing airport and airline operations put in place and tested,
Electric aircraft ‘testbed’ flights will take-off at Exeter Airport and fly to Newquay Airport.
The project is being led by electric aviation leader Ampaire and will run to May 2022.
Partners including Rolls-Royce Electrical, the University of Nottingham, Loganair, Exeter Airport, Cornwall Airport, Heart of the South West LEP, and UK Power Network Services.
The demonstration flights will be carried out using Ampaire’s six-seat Electric EEL aircraft.
In a later phase, a 19-seat Eco Otter hybrid-electric retrofit of the workhorse Twin Otter commuter aircraft will be used.
The 2ZERO team believes that success could ‘catalyse a fundamental shift in regional airline operations’ – with emissions cut by up to 70 per cent.
Andrew Bell, chief executive of Regional and City Airports which owns Exeter Airport, said: “Our 2ZERO programme is incredibly exciting for us and the South West region.
“Exeter is an important regional airport and this project really puts us on the map as a forward-looking airport and demonstrates our commitment, along with our partners, to making the future of aviation a sustainable one.”
Karl Tucker, chair of Heart of the South West LEP, added: “This programme is a huge step forwards in transforming the future of air travel and helping the UK to achieve its target of net carbon flights by 2050.”
East Devon District Council leader Councillor Paul Arnott said: “The airport has probably seen the heaviest impact from the pandemic of any business in East Devon.
“We are keen to support a green recovery rather than just a return to business as usual and this announcement is a really important step towards this.
“It will ensure that the airport can act as a test bed for new technologies including electric flight and can play a leading role in helping to meet the global challenge of decarbonising the aviation industry.
“This fits very well with the emphasis already placed on science, technology and engineering in the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone.”