Honda joins eVTOL race; magniX Part 33 pathway published

In a weeklong flurry of major developments, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. announced an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) design; the FAA published the special conditions it will use to certify the first electric aviation powerplants (two models of magniX motor); and Bye Aerospace booked orders for its eFlyer 800 twin-electric-motor turboprop replacement.

Honda's eVTOL program will incorporate technologies and experience gained by several of the company's divisions, including the team that produced and certified the HondaJet and the team that makes engines for Formula 1 racing teams. Image courtesy of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. via YouTube.

Add to that trifecta of significant news a NASA announcement on September 30 that the aforementioned magniX, based in Redmond, Washington, will receive $74.3 million, with another $179 million going to GE Aviation, over five years to accelerate development of megawatt-class electric powerplants for short-range and regional commercial air travel and single-aisle passenger aircraft. NASA hopes the collaboration with industry will enable such aircraft to enter service by 2035.

That news arrived three days after the FAA published the special conditions it will use to determine that an electric powerplant can achieve equivalent safety to a traditional powerplant certified under Part 33 standards that were designed for certification of powerplants that burn fuel. Two magniX motors, designed to produce 450 shaft horsepower and 850 shaft horsepower, respectively, were announced in June, the latest iterations of an electric powerplant magniX has been testing in Cessna Grand Caravans and de Havilland DHC–2 Beaver seaplanes. The firm has been striving to certify electric motors by 2023, and publication of the required rulemaking change opens the door for magniX in particular, but also blazes a trail that others may follow sooner rather than later.

Also on September 30, Honda joined the eVTOL race with a concept unveiled (perhaps notably) by Honda Motor Co. Ltd., not Honda Aircraft Co., though the HondaJet's technology and experience the company gained certifying that revolutionary aircraft give Honda quite a leg up. The firm noted that the Formula 1 program and automotive divisions will also be tapped to contribute to a coordinated effort to design, certify, and market an eVTOL with a gas turbine hybrid powerplant to fly within a multimodal transportation system.

In the same release, Honda also revealed plans to build an "avatar robot" to "expand the range of human ability virtually without the constraints of time and place." The robot will have a multi-fingered hand and Honda's AI-supported remote control function; a YouTube video does not show Honda's robots flying aircraft, but they are pressed into service to perform as emergency medical responders, to give students a virtual "presence" on the moon, and to allow a company staffer to remotely evaluate a product (with his or her virtual hands on it) from the comfort of home.

Denver-based Bye Aerospace announced October 6 another firm order for its eight-seat electric twin eFlyer 800 that could enter service as soon as 2024. Sister companies Jet It and Jet Club signed the first eFlyer 800 purchase agreements in June, and German charter operator Air2E followed suit. Air2E founder and CEO Norbert Werle said in the news release that Bye's electric twin will be ideal for use in a sustainable air transport network.

"We intend to build an eFlyer 800 fleet for our AirTaxi service, which is already today the most economical individual flight solutions available," Werle said. "In contrast to large airline operations, small 4 to 10-seat airplanes are the ideal size for a regional network of on-demand flights, consequently providing the fastest road to sustainable and cost-effective individual air-travel with all-electric airplanes like the eFlyer 800."

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Electric, Advanced Air Mobility

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