Eagle-eyed spotters around Southern California may have noticed something strange taking to the skies. The Celera 500L is a forthcoming entrant to the business market, and is the most radical redesign of an aircraft we’ve seen in many decades. Not only does it look futuristic, but it also promises to achieve fuel efficiency, range and operational costs that put its competitors in the shadows.
A new light business aircraft that outperforms the rest
There’s a new business plane on the horizon, and it’s set to challenge the industry with cheaper, greener executive transport. The brainchild of William Otto, founder of aviation accident investigation firm Otto Laboratories, the Celera 500L is a strange blimp-like aircraft, seating up to six, which promises to shake up the private aviation world.
Otto Aviation says that the aircraft will boast a long range, fast cruise and lower operational costs, opening up business travel to a wider market of passengers. The zeppelin-shaped body might be unusual to look at, but there’s a reason for its futuristic appearance.
The principle of the Celera is to make the most of laminar flow. This is the minimum drag solution for aircraft surfaces, creating smooth airflow layers with little to no mixing taking place. The Celera’s body design has been created to optimize the length to width ratio, and to maximize laminar flow.
The end result is a 59% reduction in drag compared to a similar-sized traditional aircraft. Otto Aviation says this will not scale well for a larger aircraft, so don’t expect any blimp-like commercial planes any time soon. But for an aircraft the size of the Celera, it’s an ideal solution.
Cleaner, greener and cheaper
According to the manufacturer, the Celera can fly with fuel economy to rival some cars, getting around 18 – 25 miles to the gallon. That compares to a regular jet aircraft that struggles to achieve three miles per gallon. As such, operating costs can be as little as $328 per hour, compared to the $2,100 per hour of a comparable jet aircraft.
In terms of its other stats, the Celera can keep up with the competition in the business jet and commuter jet market. Cruise speed is projected to be in excess of 460 miles per hour, with a range of 4,500 NM. Although it only carries six passengers, they can all rest in comfort with a cabin height of 6’2”, and an all-business-class layout.
Compared to other aircraft in its class, such as the Beechcraft King Air 350 or the Citation CJ3+, the cabin volume is bigger in the Celera. It has 448 cubic feet of cabin space, compared to 416 for the Beechcraft and 311 for the Citation.
The powerplant is a Red A03 engine, which is a liquid-cooled V12, six-cylinder bank, with each bank capable of completely independent operation. The certification of the powerplant has already been given by EASA and the FAA, including operation on both Jet A1 and biodiesel.
The company has already conducted more than 30 successful test flights, and is targeting an entry into service around 2023 – 2025. This year, Otto Aviation is looking to begin the FAA Certification process for the aircraft, and to create its initial order book.