Eviation has achieved a long-awaited first flight with its all-electric Alice aircraft, which it is developing for both commuter airline and private aviation applications. The battery-powered, fixed-wing prototype took off at 7:10 a.m. local time from Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, and landed eight minutes later after flying two circuits at 3,500 feet.
The September 27 flight, with test pilot Steven Crane at the controls, marks a significant milestone in the development of the Alice aircraft, which is designed to carry up to nine passengers and two pilots up to 250 nm (460 km) in VFR conditions. In addition to the commuter model, Eviation plans to offer a cargo-carrying Alice with a payload capacity of 2,500 pounds (1,100 kilograms), as well as an executive version that seats six passengers. Two MagniX Magni650 electric propulsion units power the aircraft.
Eviation has quietly changed the published range for the Alice from 440 nm to 250 nm in VFR conditions. The company told FutureFlight that customers have been briefed on the new "target" and are "aligned," while adding that the aircraft will also be able to operate in IFR conditions.
The company has pushed back the program timeline so that first deliveries are now not expected until 2027, around three years later than first anticipated. Company CEO and president Gregory Davis told a press conference that the delay is due to the need for improved batteries. It will not build and fly a production-conforming prototype until 2025 in preparation for certification under FAA's Part 23 rules for small airplanes.
"The flight was exactly as planned," Davis told FutureFlight. "The pilot executed the entire flight on the numbers. I was watching from just outside the telemetry room and as he hit every single point, it was just such a thrill," he said. "We couldn't be happier."
Eviation, which is based in Arlington, Washington, first unveiled a full-scale prototype of the Alice aircraft at the Paris Air Show in June 2019. Anticipating excessive type certification complexity, and in response to input from prospective customers, the company substantially redesigned this model, replacing its distinctive V-shaped tail with a new T-tail configuration and moving its MagniX Magni650 electric propulsion units from the wingtips to a pylon mount at the rear of the fuselage.
Eviation’s engineering team expects the new configuration to improve stability in flight. It says the relocated, larger propellers will deliver more power.
The new Alice prototype was revealed in July 2021, and at that time Eviation said it planned to conduct the first test flight before the end of that year. The company did not provide any explanation for subsequent delays, and the debut flight was rescheduled to take place during the summer of 2022—a target that it just missed by about five days.
On September 18, Eviation announced that the Alice had performed a high-speed taxi rotation test at the Moses Lake airport, a sign that the long-anticipated first flight was imminent.
Alice may have taken a bit longer than planned to get off the ground, but that hasn’t stopped Eviation from securing several customers for the aircraft. Earlier this month, the air charter firm GlobalX provisionally agreed to purchase 50 all-electric Alice aircraft. Another launch customer, Massachusetts-based regional airline Cape Air, has also agreed to purchase 75 Alice commuter aircraft, and DHL Express has ordered 12 of the freighter version of Alice.
The long-anticipated first flight of the Alice is a significant boost for Eviation. An earlier prototype of the original aircraft design was badly damaged during a battery fire in January 2020. At the time, the aircraft was undergoing ground tests at Prescott Regional Airport in Arizona.
This story was updated on September 28 to include new VFR range specifications supplied by Eviation and clarification on the reasons for first deliveries being delayed until 2027.