Magnix and AeroTEC celebrate first flight of their electric Caravan

Electric aviation propulsion company Magnix teamed up with Test and Evaluation experts AeroTEC to fly the magni500 electric motor on a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, making it the world's largest commercial electric aircraft.

The so-called eCaravan took off on its first flight from Grant County International airport for a 30 minute flight that Magnix chief executive Roei Ganzarski described as: “a real significant watershed moment for aviation”

The Magnix magni500 engine is rated to produce 560kW (750bhp) at maximum continuous power at 1900rpm. The motor itself weighs only 135kg (297lb), around 20kg lighter than turboprop units of equivalent power, and can also accept off-the-shelf propeller governor units for constant-speed props. The motor electronics have integrated liquid cooling and the motor itself is designed to accommodate malfunctions using what Magnix calls ‘graceful degradation’; it will continue to produce some power even if a fault develops. While the motor fitted to the eCaravan is supplied with 750v DC power by lithium battery technology, Magnix are also investigating other power technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells.

The eCaravan takes off on its first flight. (AeroTEC photo)

The power plant was fitted onto the modified Cessna aircraft by AeroTEC, a company that specialises in test and certification procedures. The eCaravan flight serves as a vital step in the approval process of the Magnix power plant, as Lee Human, President and CEO of AeroTEC explained: “There’s no roadmap for testing and certifying electric aircraft – this is a new frontier and AeroTEC is on the front lines developing the processes and best practices that will pave the way for electric aviation.”

Lee Human also paid tribute to the work that AeroTEC had done to overcome the challenges of achieving such a first flight. “I’m proud of the pioneering work performed by our engineers, technicians and flight test team,” he said.

The Magni500 power plant fitted to a Harbour Air DHC-2 Beaver in place of the usual Wasp Junior piston engine. (MagniX/Harbour Air Photo)

Once proven on the Caravan test bed, Magnix say that the motor will be well suited to retro-fitting on so-called ‘Middle-Mile’ aircraft such as DeHavilland Canada’s DHC-2 Beaver and DHC-6 Twin Otter and some variants of Beechcraft’s King-Air. The motor as fitted to a DHC-2 Beaver, which was flown in late 2019, is quoted as having 30 minutes endurance with 30 minutes reserve power.

Magnix motors are one of two power plants being considered for the Alice aircraft, currently being designed by Israeli company eViation.