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World’s largest all-electric aircraft set for first flight

The Cessna Caravan, retrofitted with an electric engine, is expected to fly for 20-30 minutes over Washington state in the US on Thursday.

The plane can carry nine passengers but a test pilot will undertake the inaugural flight alone, cruising at a speed of 114mph (183km/h). The engine maker, magniX, hopes the aircraft could enter commercial service by the end of 2021 and have a range of 100 miles.

The aviation industry is heavily regulated to ensure safety but magniX hopes that by retrofitting an existing plane the certification process can be accelerated. A smaller seaplane powered by a magniX engine completed a short flight in December.

The Cessna Caravan being used by magniX is one of the world’s most used medium-range planes, with more than 2,600 operating in 100 countries. The first flight is set for 8am Pacific time (1500 GMT) on Thursday, weather permitting.

Among the other companies developing electric aircraft are Zunum Aero, which is building a 27-seat plane with a 680-mile range, and the engine maker Rolls-Royce, whose Accel programme aims to produce the fastest all-electric plane to date. However, in April, Rolls-Royce and Airbus cancelled their plans for a hybrid electric aircraft. The German company Lilium is working on a five-seater jet-powered electric air taxi.

 

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