VoltAero will build its Cassio family of hybrid-electric aircraft at a new purpose-built factory at Rochefort Airport in the southwest of France. The company announced the selection of the site after landing the Cassio 1 technology demonstrator aircraft at the airport on July 11 at the end of an 11-stage promotional tour of the country.
Work on the 6,770-sq-m (72,874-sq-ft) facility, which will incorporate a final assembly line, logistics areas, and offices, is set to begin in the second quarter of 2022. The first four-seat Cassio 330 model is due to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2023, and VoltAero is planning for production rates of up to 150 aircraft per year.
In addition to the Cassio 330, VoltAero is also developing larger six- and 10-seat versions of the fixed-wing aircraft called the Cassio 480 and 600 models. The numbers in each model name refer to their power rating in kilowatts.
“After an in-depth review of numerous candidate sites, Rochefort was the clear winner based on factors that include its ground- and sea-based transportation links, an established aerospace industry in the region, and the final assembly line’s favorable location adjacent to the airport’s runway infrastructure,” explained VoltAero CEO and chief technology officer Jean Botti.
Rochefort is in the Charente-Maritime department of France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. VoltAero has been based in the area since it was launched in September 2017 by Botti, who was formerly chief technology officer for Airbus’s E-Fan electric aircraft program. The company has received financial support from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine regional government.
The production versions of the Cassio will be powered by three of Safran’s 60-kW Engineus 45 electric motors and a 370-hp internal combustion engine, collectively driving a five-bladed pusher propeller. The Cassio 1 demonstrator has a pair of forward-mounted propellers, each driven by an Engineus 45 motor.
Airframe and aerostructures manufacturer Sonaca Aircraft is conducting engineering design for the Cassio airframes and will supply these for series production. Aero Composites Saintonge is working on battery assembly and has produced components for the demonstrator aircraft. VoltAero is seeking to recruit aerospace engineers from French schools such as the Université de Bordeaux.
The projected range for the aircraft, which are intended for various applications including scheduled and on-demand passenger transportation, is up to around 750 miles and they will fly at a speed of around 230 mph. They will be able to take off and land in less than 1,800 feet and will be certified under EASA's CS-23 rules.