The Hybrid-Electric Plane That Will Switch From Passenger to Cargo In 15 Minutes

Faradair, a United Kingdom-based startup, is developing a multi-role hybrid-electric plane that brings quiet propulsion with a carbon-neutral footprint. The aircraft has a triple box wing configuration that can perform short take-off and landing (STOL) with 18 passengers or five tons of cargo on board. Notably, it can switch between a passenger and cargo set up in just a quarter of an hour. Simple Flying caught up with the company’s managing director, Neil Cloughley, about the need for such an aircraft.

BEHA-MH1
Faradair has its sights on introducing the world’s most environmental plane. Photo: Faradair

Addressing the key issues

Faradair looked at the primary challenges related to why people are not flying on certain routes. For instance, with UK-based journeys such as Cambridge to Swansea, travelers choose to go by car. This is also the case across the continents, especially in the remote regions of countries such as Canada and India, where there are ground convoys that travel for six hours.

Cloughley explains that there are three fundamental problems that need to be addressed in order to turn these ground journeys into flights.

  1. Cost of operations. If airlines can’t make enough revenue with the assets that they have, they are going to go bust. This is the biggest driving factor.
  2. Noise footprint. If a business is going to start using aircraft to the volume that it needs in order to make money, the chances of noise complaints are going to rise amid the increase in traffic.
  3. Emissions and sustainability. The aviation industry has to reduce its emissions and carbon footprint.
BEHA M1H Regional Air Mobility
BEHA M1H has a wingspan of 57 ft (17.37 m), length of 48 ft 2 in (14.68 m), and height of 14 ft 10 in (4.52 m). Photo: Faradair

Quick adaptations

These three factors inspired Faradair to be flexible with its program. It knew it needed to consider both cargo and passenger operations in the current climate. However, it had to be effective with its approach to ensure that costs are balanced.

“While you could have a 19-seat airplane in this Part23 category, we said 18 because we’ve simply got a palletized seating system of six, six, and six. Basically, those unclip, the pallets come out, the three LD3 containers go in, and away you go. That’s how it’s a 15-minute turnaround. It’s very similar to the QC (quick change) concept that you’ve seen before in the 737 and the narrowbody market, where you’ve got to be able to interchange,” Cloughley told Simple Flying.

“So, what we were creating, effectively, was a flying van. We created that core asset. How you use it is really down to you. Quick-change configuration is very important, but so is modularity – the ability to put different payloads in on different pallets and do different things. So, whether it’s a special mission, cargo, or firefighting aircraft, you’ve got to be able to interchange that. This was really the core driver behind the design and thinking of the airplane.”

BEHA London
BEHA M1H will have a range of up to 1,150 miles (1,850 km) when delivering lightweight materials. Photo: Faradair

Opening up opportunities

Altogether, the untapped opportunity for general aviation airfields is enormous. For instance, a large city such as London has several airfields surrounding it. Fairoaks, Redhill, Aylesbury, and Northolt are just some examples of nearby fields. Cloughley highlights that if a carrier was offering a flight from one of these sites to Manchester each way for just £25, every seat would be filled on this 45-minute journey because it’s convenient and affordable.

The aviation industry doesn’t want to or need to pay for complex electrical or hydrogen infrastructure. Therefore, it can make use of the existing air network, which is underutilized for general aviation purposes. Many people think that airfields are there to be taken over for housing and such, but Faradair believes that it would be an utter crime if this was to happen as they hold a fantastic infrastructure element.

Cloughley compares the housing approach to the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, which was a plan to increase the efficiency of the nationalized railway system in the United Kingdom. He notes that people think it’s a good idea, but actually, in the long run, it’s incredibly short-sighted, and authorities may end up having to reverse the process.

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In service, the plane will have a max speed of 230 mph (370 km/h). Photo: Faradair

Savings to be had

The infrastructure in these airfields links communities throughout the country. Combining this aspect with the right aircraft will enable a cost-effective model that gives long-term sustainability in the market.

“More people would be able to afford to fly in an aircraft that’s extremely safe, all-weather capable, and can fly from point to point, very cost-effectively. That’s a social mobility shift. Now, you’re looking at positions where people can actually choose where they want to live, where they can afford to live, and still apply for and work at jobs that may be in the biggest city metropolis hubs where the salaries are higher,” Cloughley adds.

“So, what you’re seeing is the ability for people who live in Manchester or Liverpool to go and work in Newcastle or in Leeds, or wherever it is, because every morning and every evening there’s an affordable shuttle. We mean affordable. Not like, for example, the season ticket from Kemble in Gloucestershire to London – £10,000 a year. It’s madness. How on earth did we allow the rail companies to get so comfortable in their position that they can charge people for an hour and three-quarter journey each way £10,000 a year and not even guarantee them a seat? So, that is the opportunity in just the UK.”

Neil Cloughley Faradair
Neil Cloughley is the CEO & founder of Faradair, with nearly two decades of experience in the aviation sector. Photo: Faradair

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Plenty of potential

Out of the 300 aircraft that Faradair intends to build by 2030, it’s looking to deploy 40 of them in the UK to various city pairings to demonstrate how the industry can be doing things better. However, the company is just not focused on the UK. It expresses that the plane can be performing the same role in Europe, North America South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

There are numerous regions around the world that currently have to rely on land transport because it is not cost-effective enough to use existing air assets. However, if there is the ability to deploy an aircraft that is affordable, the market prospects are massive.

BEHA Faradair
Faradair is presently expanding its team and preparing for new offices at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, as it gets ready for BEHA’s first flight, which is expected in 2024. Photo: Faradair

Cloughley uses the Cessna Caravan as an example of the potential to be had, with around 2,600 planes sold in its history. He shares that his firm has ambitions of up to 5,000 BEHA unit sales. With an experienced team of aerospace experts behind the project, it’s not just a technical toy that people like the look of. Cloughley concludes that those behind the program truly understand the market and are excited to send passengers and freight to their destination with their cost-effective aircraft.

What are your thoughts about Faradair’s BEHA and its versatility? Are you excited about such an aircraft being introduced this decade? Let us know what you think of the plane and its prospects in the comment section.

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