Hybrid-electric aircraft developer Electra has secured purchase commitments for up to 130 of its eSTOL vehicles from Brazil’s Flapper and Australia’s Skyportz, the companies said Monday. The deals come a little over a month after Virginai-based Electra signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with helicopter operator Bristow for 50 of the still-unnamed eSTOL machines. Electra places the value of all the commitments at more than $500 million.
Electra’s fixed-wing aircraft will initially carry up to seven passengers and a pilot or 1,800 pounds of cargo up to 500 miles in all weather conditions. Its ability to take off and land with just 100 feet of linear space allows flight operations from places previously inaccessible by air, including urban rooftops and corporate parking lots. Electra says its technology delivers two-and-a-half times the payload and 10 times more range as well as 70 percent lower operating costs than what it calls vertical takeoff alternatives.
“These strategic agreements go beyond the technological development and manufacturing of the aircraft,” said Electra CEO John Langford. “They chart the entire ecosystem needed for its successful operation, ground support, and customer use that together validate the commercial viability and market confidence in our eSTOL aircraft.”
Under the MOU with Flapper, Electra will serve as Flapper’s preferred aircraft provider for five-plus-seat regional air services. As Electra’s preferred service provider in Brazil, Flapper commits to buying 15 Electra eSTOL aircraft with an option for 15 more of the airplanes. The two companies plan to jointly pursue new route networks including ones for heliport operators and real estate developers and investors.
“Our transition to sustainable electric aircraft is expected to achieve 40 percent savings in our operational costs and open our service to new destinations,” said Flapper CEO Paul Malicki. “With Electra’s eSTOL plane, we look forward to offering our customers unparalleled urban and regional air mobility in cities such as São Paulo, Bogotá [Colombia], Santiago de Chile, or Ciudad de Mexico—all at a fraction of the cost of a helicopter ride.”
Meanwhile, Electra’s MOU with Skyportz includes a purchase agreement for up to 100 eSTOL aircraft, which the Australian firm plans to use for connecting city centers or dispersed logistic facilities and delivering cargo to remote regions. The companies are exploring opportunities in Australia for early trials of Electra's full-scale technology demonstrator, which enters flight testing in the U.S. in 2022.
“Australia exemplifies the type of market that will greatly benefit from Electra’s eSTOL aircraft, with our greater payload capabilities, lower emissions, longer range, and reduced operating costs,” said Electra’s Langford. “Electra is excited to collaborate with Skyportz, in anticipation of our eSTOL aircraft flying missions in Australia ranging from on-demand intracity passenger flights to medical transport, cargo logistics, remote area missions, and more.”
The move into eSTOL operations marks a significant departure for the Bristow Group, which today operates a worldwide fleet of around 240 rotorcraft, mainly serving customers in the oil and gas sector, as well as providing services such as search-and-rescue cover for governments and civil organizations. Bristow has explored diversifying its business model for some time after seeing its financial performance dented by declining demand and excess helicopter capacity in the offshore oil and gas sector.