Electra was formed in early 2020 after founder John Langford left his previous company Aurora Flight Sciences, which he founded in 1989 and subsequently sold to Boeing. In November 2020, he confirmed that his growing team is working on a sub-scale technology demonstrator for a planned, but as-yet-unnamed, hybrid-electric short-takeoff, and landing aircraft. The aim is to begin tests flights with this model as a first step to achieving type certification with a production aircraft before the end of 2026.
Initially, the company is looking to produce a six-seat aircraft with a payload (for cargo-carrying purposes) of around one metric tonne (2,200 pounds). Initial financial support has come from investors close to the company founders and it has also completed a seed round with an undisclosed investor. The company says it has enough capital to complete flight testing with the technology demonstrator.
Early concept drawings show a fairly conventional design with a high-wing and fixed landing gear reminiscent of numerous general aviation aircraft. On the wing, there are eight sets of propellers each of which is to be driven by an electric motor. The location of the conventional engine has yet to be determined, with Langford describing it as an auxiliary power unit. The design uses Electra's "blown lift" technology to blow air over the span of the wing and its flaps, allowing for takeoff and landing speeds as low as 30 mph.
Electra believes that it will deliver a more cost-effective aircraft by focusing on STOL performance that far exceeds current expectations. It believes the aircraft will be able to takeoff and land in no more than around 300 feet, and possibly as little as 100 feet. It is also intended that the aircraft would be able to operate from so-called "unimproved fields" and so would not require officially designated runways. This should expand the scope for it to be used in rural areas for missions that could include last-mile delivery services.
In late October 2020, supersonic aircraft developer Aerion announced a partnership with Electra. This envisages the Electra STOL aircraft being used to carry passengers to and from long-haul supersonic flights.
Electra planned to complete the preliminary design of its eSTOL aircraft in December 2020. A forefront partner in this equation is Blue Force Technologies, which currently leads the design and manufacturing of the airframe. The eSTOL company hopes to see a maiden flight with a technology demonstrator before the end of 2021, with type certification still on track for 2026.
In June 2021, the company announced that it has completed the definition of the aircraft it intends to bring to market. With the specifications adjusted, Electra will now offer prospective customers an aircraft that can carry up to seven passengers with a single pilot on board. It is projecting range of up to 500 miles and speeds of up to 200 mph.
In July 2021, NASA awarded Electra a Small Business Technology Transfer contract to support join work with the University of Southern California on its "blown lift" technology.
In August 2021, Electra announced the appointment of Randy Griffith as director of certification and confirmed that he has started working with the FAA's Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation and the agency's Atlanta Aircraft Certification Office to define the certification path for the eSTOL design. The company says certification will be under 14 CFR Part 23 rules, covering multi-engine, Level 3, low-speed (below 250 knots). It aims to complete the process in 2026, with the next key step being to start flight testing a full-scale demonstrator aircraft in 2022.