Wright Electric has added a new member to its range of zero-emissions aircraft for the commercial aviation market. Named the Wright Spirit, the aircraft will incorporate Wright’s megawatt-class electric propulsion system and serve the 100-passenger market for one-hour flights.
The aircraft design builds on the BAe 146 platform – a 100 passenger, four-engine aircraft known for its operation out of noise-sensitive airports. “Aviation has committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but Wright is committed to a 100% reduction in all emissions starting in 2026,” said Jeff Engler, CEO of Wright. “Because we built the world’s largest aerospace propulsive powertrain, we can build the world’s largest zero-emissions retrofit directly serving the world’s busiest routes.”
Over the past two years, Wright has been proving key components of its megawatt propulsion system for an all-electric commercial aircraft, including a high-efficiency, high-power density inverter and a 2MW (2,700HP) motor. The existing hydrocarbon-based propulsion system of the BAe 146 platform will be replaced with Wright’s electric system.
By focusing on one-hour flights, the Wright Spirit addresses the world’s busiest city pairs, such as Seoul to Jeju (the world’s busiest route, with 14 million passengers annually), London to Paris, Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, and San Francisco to Los Angeles. “We can make a significant impact on global emissions by targeting this high-demand segment of the market,” stated Jeff Engler.
Airline partners are involved in the project. As Juan Carlos Zuazua, CEO of Viva Aerobus said, “Viva Aerobus is excited to support the development of the Wright Spirit as a member of the advisory board. As the Greenest Airline in Mexico, we are focused on aviation’s commitment to greenhouse gas reductions. We look forward to collaborating with Wright to analyse the integration of a zero-emissions 100-passenger aircraft into airline operations.”
David Morgan, director of flight operations at easyJet added, “We believe zero emissions aircraft are key to addressing aviation’s environmental impact and so we fully support Wright Electric in their ambition to bring a zero-emissions aircraft to market. Wright have come a long way since we first started working with them in 2017 and we welcome this announcement as another important step on their journey.”
Wright has assembled an team of innovative companies to help develop the integrated propulsion system, with expertise in generation, energy storage and propulsion design. The programme is now proceeding with on-going ground testing and final selection of the propulsion system. In 2023, the aircraft will begin flight testing with one all-electric propulsor. The development programme will then accelerate towards flight testing with two all-electric propulsors by 2024, leading to the full-electric aircraft by 2026.