Alaska Regional Carrier Ravn Alaska Signs For 50 eSTOL Aircraft

Regional outfit Ravn Alaska has a strong heritage in Alaskan operations that traces all the way back to 1948. With a history that has lasted for over 70 years, the carrier has managed to adapt over the decades. The latest shift is its signing of a deal for 50 carbon-neutral eSTOL aircraft with Airflow.

Ravn Alaska Airflow
The aircraft will help Ravn Alaska maintain services well in icy conditions and poor weather. Photo: Airflow

Remote regions and tough conditions

Short takeoff and landing (STOL) planes are developed to help serve flights that rely on short runways. Moreover, several of these are equipped for deployment on runways with sensitive conditions. For example, they can be seen at airports at high altitudes and fields with icy environments. Overall, flights operating to these areas can run far more efficiently with STOLs.

Therefore, airlines serving across Alaska are no stranger to taking on STOL models. With several remote communities living in habitats with tough conditions, the right equipment is needed to keep them connected.

Ravn Alaska specializes in serving small communities in the state. The Anchorage-headquartered airline has hubs at Fairbanks International, Unalakleet Airport, Tom Madsen Airport, and Cold Bay Airport. It uses its 10 Dash 8s to serve 100 destinations around The Last Frontier. Now, after bouncing back from its 2020 bankruptcy filing, it is eager to bring its fleet to a new generation with eSTOL aircraft.

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Next-gen solutions

The carrier has consulted Airflow for a modern offering. This company has been working on electric planes that don’t need new infrastructure and fit within existing regulatory frameworks. The aircraft are being designed with numerous types of electric propulsion in mind, such as battery-electric, hybrid-electric, and hydrogen-electric processes. Interestingly, future units will hold the autonomous systems to further advance on safety and cost-efficiency.

Airflow
Airflow shares that there would be 70% lower operating costs than helicopters or eVTOLs and 30% lower operating costs than traditional planes with its aircraft. Photo: Airflow

The business was formed by five former Airbus Vahana team members just two years ago. The Vahana project was an electric-powered VTOL prototype. Therefore, the firm is well familiar with these types of vehicles.

Airflow CEO and co-founder Marc Ausman said the following about the aircraft in a statement:

“From logistics carriers to passenger airlines we hear loud and clear that demand is on the rise. At Airflow, we’re partnering with companies that seek to add new aircraft with new capabilities to their fleets that are flexible, cost-effective, and carbon-neutral. The Airflow team has designed, built, and flown new aircraft on rapid timescales together before, and now we’re applying those learnings to an aircraft that will improve operating economics for airlines and contribute positively to reducing aviation’s carbon impact.”

Airflow is primarily working on two types – the Model 100 and Model 200. The 100 can serve four passengers and at least 800 lbs (363 kg) of cargo. It has a takeoff and land distance of 150 ft (46 m) and a range of 250 mi (402 km) plus reserves. Meanwhile, the 200 can hold up to nine passengers and 2,000 lbs (907 kg) of cargo. its takeoff and land distance is 250 ft (76 m), while its range is 500 mi (805 km) plus reserves.

Airflow Concept
Airflow is looking to use a pilot assistance system called Virtual Tailhook to enable precise, safe, and repeatable landings on short runways. Photo: Airflow

The company’s aircraft are expected to be introduced from 2025. Impressively, orders now rack up to over $200 million worth of planes.

The right fit

So, the specifications make for a great match for Ravn Alaska. The airline’s CEO, Rob McKinney, added the following about the deal:

“As a regional operator, we are committed to serving the many large and small communities of Alaska. That means we are constantly seeking out new ways to deliver the best value and experience for Alaskans. With Airflow, we benefit from the new capabilities the aircraft offers that open up new and different destinations, the constantly improving efficiencies of electrification, and alignment between our fleet and the rising demands of our customers to travel with the smallest carbon footprint possible.”

Altogether, Raven Alaska will be looking forward to deploying these innovative units for their ease of transport while reducing operating costs and noise. The carrier is also keen to expand its route network with the aircraft this decade.

Notably, these sorts of regional operations are a perfect fit for the incoming wave of electric aircraft due to their short-term capabilities. The technology involved is yet to mature to allow for long-range, high-capacity electric travel. However, it can open up several opportunities on shorter distances.

What are your thoughts about this deal between Airflow and Ravn for 50 eSTOL aircraft? What do you make of the overall agreement? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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