Surf Air Mobility, a Los Angeles-based startup, has placed an order for the first 20 Cessna Grand Caravan EX turboprops with Textron Aviation.
The two companies had a pre-agreement signed in 2021 to supply up to 100 aircraft of the model, with a further 50 purchase options.
Cessna Grand Caravans will be delivered starting in the first half of 2024, Textron said.
The Californian company, however, does not intend to use the single-engine engines as delivered by the manufacturer. The plan is to convert them to receive proprietary hybrid-electric or electric powertrain technology.
Surf Air expects to obtain supplemental type certification from the FAA in 2026 and then deploy the electrified Caravans on regional routes in the US.
The startup’s goal is to offer short-term direct flight services capable of shortening the trip made by car or commercial plane and also resulting in lower pollutant emissions.
In the example provided by Surfair, a flight between Los Angeles and San Diego would take 1 hour and 30 minutes compared to up to 3 hours by car and 3 hours and 30 minutes by a regular commercial flight.
Among the advantages would be the speed of boarding and disembarking and the use of airports close to large centers that are underutilized.
“Our relationship with Textron Aviation is paramount in our mission to revolutionize air travel,” said Sudhin Shahani, co-founder of Surf Air Mobility. “This initial fleet delivery solidifies our commitment to bringing advanced electric aircraft to market to reduce fuel emissions and the cost of air travel.”
“We are excited to see Surf Air’s progress in expanding their fleet with deliveries expected to begin early next year,” said Lannie O’Bannion, senior vice president, Global Sales and Flight Operations at Textron. “The Cessna Caravan’s adaptability for passenger and cargo operations makes it an ideal platform for hybrid electric and electric propulsion innovations. This exclusive relationship demonstrates Textron Aviation’s commitment to the future of sustainable flight.”
Surf Air Mobility will also be the exclusive provider to Textron Aviation of certain battery electric and hybrid electric powertrain technology for the Cessna Grand Caravan.