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FAA Approves Special Conditions for Certifying Electric Propulsion Systems

The FAA has issued special conditions for airworthiness standards to be used to certify MagniX's electric propulsion units (EPUs) for commercial aircraft under its Part 33 rules. The publication of the special conditions followed close consultation with MagniX, which is the first electric propulsion system manufacturer to have a defined path to FAA certification. It expects to complete this process in 2023.

The Everett, Washington-based company is working on plans to convert the DHC-2 Beaver and the Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft to electric propulsion. For the first Beaver conversion, it has partnered with Vancouver-based operator Harbour Air and for the Caravan with Australia's Sydney Seaplanes and Lima in the U.S. 

MagniX is also providing an EPU for the nine-seat Alice aircraft being developed by its sister company Eviation. The prototype is expected to make its first flight before the end of 2021.

"The next steps are to take our propulsion systems through the rigorous testing required to meet the FAA special conditions and to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are as safe and reliable, if not more so, than other certified equivalent aircraft propulsion systems," explained MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski.

The document, which was published on September 27, details the requirements for 32 separate sets of special conditions, including the testing protocol for new electric propulsion systems. The conditions covered in the 27-page report include engine ratings and operating limits, materials, cooling, fire protection, durability, assembly and connections, temperature limits, and lubrication.

During the consultation process for the special conditions, which set the benchmark for achieving type certification of propulsion systems intended for a wide variety of electric aircraft, multiple stakeholders provided detailed input. These included Textron Aviation (which manufactures the Grand Caravan), eVTOL developer Wisk, engine makers Safran and Rolls-Royce (which are developing their own electric propulsion systems), GE Aviation, Ampaire (which also plans to convert the Cessna Caravan and other turboprop aircraft), Airbus, and Associacao Das Industrias Aeroespaciais Do Brasil. In addition to the FAA, aviation regulators EASA and Transport Canada commented in detail on the proposals.