‘It was wonderful’: Eviation’s Alice electric airplane wins praise after its first flight test
After years of on-the-ground development, Eviation’s all-electric Alice airplane quietly took to the air here this morning for its first test flight.
Test pilot Steve Crane guided the nine-passenger aircraft, powered by two 640-kilowatt electric motors, through its takeoff from Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, a facility in Eastern Washington’s high desert that’s often used for testing innovations in aviation.
When the motors revved up, they sounded like electric grass trimmers. And when the plane flew overhead, the noise was more like a hum than a roar.
Alice flew for eight minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 3,500 feet before landing safely back at the airport.
So how was the ride? “It was wonderful,” Crane said. “It handled just like we thought it would. Very responsive, very quick to the throttle, and it came on in for a wonderful landing. I couldn’t be happier.”
Crane explained that the relatively short flight was intended to be the first in a series of “baby steps” for the test program. “Today was just about the initial envelope,” he told reporters. “For future tests, we’ll expand that envelope.”
Arlington, Wash.-based Eviation is on a growing list of ventures that are aiming to make aviation more efficient and less expensive by taking advantage of advances in electric propulsion and battery technology.
“What we have just done is made aviation history,” Gregory Davis, Eviation’s president and CEO, said after the flight. “This is about changing the way that we fly. It’s about connecting communities in a sustainable way, and we are obviously beaming with pride on this beautiful sunny day here at Moses Lake.”
The Alice aircraft — whose name was inspired by the book “Alice in Wonderland” and the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit” — will come in different variants for commuter, cargo and executive flights. Davis said the initial goal is to build a plane with a maximum range of 200 to 300 nautical miles. According to Eviation’s stats, Alice’s maximum useful load would be 2,500 to 2,600 pounds, and its maximum operating speed would be 260 knots (300 mph).
Davis acknowledged that the design specifications and capabilities of the production version of the plane may be something of a moving target, due to Eviation’s dependence on improvements in battery technology. “It’s going to be carbon fiber, it’s going to be fly-by-wire, it’s going to be electric — so in that respect, it’s the same plane,” Davis said. “As far as the actual design of the aircraft, I think everything’s going to be evolved.”
Eviation’s majority owner is the Clermont Group, a privately held conglomerate based in Singapore.
The plane’s electric propulsion system is provided by MagniX, a Clermont corporate cousin that has its headquarters in Everett, Wash. Eviation’s partner in the flight test program is AeroTEC, which operates the Moses Lake Flight Test Center. For what it’s worth, MagniX and AeroTEC have been working together since 2020 to conduct flight tests for a Cessna Grand Caravan airplane that was converted to use MagniX’s electric motors.
Alice’s inaugural flight test came more than three years after the first prototype was unveiled at the Paris Air Show. Since then, Eviation has moved its base of operations from Israel to Arlington, and has gone through a complicated executive transition that brought Davis in as CEO.
If all goes according to plan, the airplane will win certification from the Federal Aviation Administration and hit the market by 2027 — which is later than the 2024 time frame that Eviation was listing a year ago.
“What we’ve learned is a lot, and one of the key things that’s driving the development of our program is the advancement of battery technology, right?” Davis told GeekWire. “So we’re being, I will say, entirely honest with ourselves about what we’re going to be able to achieve. … It’s all going to be based on getting the batteries to converge to the development cycle for the aircraft.”
Three years ago, Eviation said the list price for an Alice airplane would be $4 million — but today Davis declined to provide an updated price tag. “I wouldn’t rely on anything that was mentioned a few years ago,” he said.
In any case, the list price for an airplane doesn’t always reflect what customers pay. Actual pricing is typically decided privately on a deal-by-deal basis, and several deals have already been announced. DHL Express ordered 12 Alice eCargo planes last year, and Massachusetts-based Cape Air ordered 75 all-electric passenger planes in April. This month, the GlobalX charter airline said it intended to order 50 passenger planes, with deliveries due to begin in 2027.
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