The U.S. startup Wright Electric has announced the launch of a 100-seat electric short-hop aircraft slated to go into service by 2026. The company plans to retrofit electric motors into a BAe 146 regional aircraft originally manufactured by BAE Systems Plc, replacing its four jet engines and transforming it into a zero-emissions model.
The revamped model – called the Wright Spirit – will incorporate Wright’s megawatt-class electric propulsion system and serve the 100-passenger market for one-hour flights.
The BAe 146 is considered to be ideal for Wright’s program since it’s a relatively small aircraft that nevertheless has four engines. It is equipped with 4 jet engines, which can be replaced with 4 of Wright Electric’s 2 MW electric aircraft engines. The flight tests will begin with a single electric motor in 2023 before moving to two in 2024 and four a year later.
Wright Electric plans to build a fleet of converted planes, which will have a range of about one hour or 460 miles (740km). By focusing on one-hour flights, the Wright Spirit addresses the world’s busiest city pairs, such as Seoul-Jeju, London-Paris, Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo, and San Francisco-Los Angeles.
To develop the integrated propulsion system, Wright has assembled an innovative team of companies with expertise in generation, energy storage, and propulsion design. The program now proceeds with ongoing ground testing and the final selection of the propulsion system. In 2023, the aircraft will begin flight testing with one all-electric propulsor. The development program will then accelerate towards flight testing with two all-electric propulsors by 2024, leading to full-electric aircraft by 2026.