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Electric Plane Takes $8 Billion in Pre-Orders

eVTOLs, with their ability to fly from rooftop to rooftop, tend to get all the headlines, but there's still plenty of appetite for more conventional electric planes. Especially, it seems, if they have astonishing lift, can land at incredibly slow speeds, and use tiny runways.

Electra hybrid aircraft
The nine-seat Electra hybrid STOL is scheduled for entry into service in 2028 | Electra

Electra's hybrid-electric STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft is one such plane. When it hits the market in, hopefully four years time, it will carry nine passengers (plus pilot and luggage) up to 500 miles (805 km) at a cruise speed around 200 mph (322 km/h).

It'll run eight electric props along the leading edge of the wings and - this is one of its key innovative tricks - large flaps hanging from the trailing edges. This creates an aerodynamic effect powerful enough to lift off at a speed of just 35 mph (56 km/h). Combined with rapid acceleration, the Electra can use a runway smaller than a soccer pitch.

That means, Electra says, it can operate from airfields as small as 300 x 100 ft (92 x 31 m) - which is about one-tenth the size of a standard runway. So even if this eSTOL can't fly from as many spaces as eVTOLs, they'll still be extremely flexible.

Plus, pleasing to investors, it functions more or less like a regular plane, so the path to certification and commercial deployment should be much smoother and easier to navigate, with plenty of precedents and fewer unknowns than the eVTOL teams face. The market clearly likes this. Electra says it's taken pre-orders for more than 2,000 aircraft, worth more than US$8 billion.

That's a remarkable number. Electra's target date for certification and entry into service is sometime in 2028.


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