Surf Air Mobility has announced it intends to “develop and certify hybrid
and fully-electric powertrains for new and existing Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft.” The California company has struck deals with electric motor maker magniX and AeroTEC, an engineering company, to develop STCs for both types
of powertrains. It has also announced a deal to merge with Southern Airways, which operates a large fleet of Caravans, to put the electrified aircraft to work. “AeroTEC and magniX are perfect partners for SAM to accelerate electrification of Cessna Grand Caravans and to lead the new era of green flying,” said Sudhin Shahani, co-founder and CEO of Surf Air Mobility.
The company will first concentrate on the hybrid Caravans because they won’t need any chargers at the airports they serve. Even though the planes will
still need fossil fuel to fly, Surf Air is predicting big savings for the environment and for its bottom line. “SAM’s first-generation hybrid electric Cessna Grand Caravans are being designed to target carbon emissions
reductions of up to 50 percent and direct operating cost reductions of up to
25 percent,” the company said. The aircraft will have the same range as PT-6-powered Caravans so will be interchangeable on existing routes. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Surf Air Mobility Inc. Announces Two Mergers and an Agreement
Company will combine with Southern Airways, go public via a SPAC, and
partner with AeroTec and magniX.
By Michael Wildes
May 18, 2022
A rendering of the soon-to-be-created electric Cessna Grand Caravan.
[Courtesy: Surf Air Mobility]
California-based company Surf Air Mobility Inc. (SAM) made a series of announcements Monday that could surely shake up the hybrid-electric market. First, the company announced that it will merge with Tuscan Holdings Corp.
II (NASDAQ: THCA), a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), in a deal valued at $1.42 billion, allowing SAM to become a publicly listed company.
The transactions from the SPAC deal are expected to yield up to $467 million
in gross cash proceeds to SAM, including committed capital from strategic
and financial investors, including iHeartMedia, Partners For Growth, and an equity line from Global Emerging Markets (GEM). Before the deal, SAM’s
existing investors included IVP, NEA, Anthem Ventures, Plus Capital, Base Ventures, Bill Woodward, Thor Björgólfsson, Jo Bamford, and other venture
and private investors.
SAM also said it will merge with Southern Airways Corporation, the largest passenger operator of Cessna Grand Caravans in the U.S., with more than
300,000 customers across 39 cities and who completed over 60,000 flights in 2021.
Once the Southern Airways deal is closed, which will happen before the SPAC merger, Stan Little, founder, chairman, and CEO of Southern will serve as president of the combined company.
SAM provides a regional air mobility platform with scheduled routes and on-demand charter flights operated by third-party Part 135 charter
operators. The company wants to create a national air travel platform and accelerate efforts to commercialize hybrid-electric aircraft.
To do that, SAM intends to upgrade Southern’s fleet of Cessna Grand Caravans with proprietary electrified powertrain technology. SAM said this would
allow it to deploy the world’s largest fleet of hybrid electric aircraft on regional routes serviced today and on additional routes in new markets. “Southern Airways sees the regional routes between 50 and 500 miles that
we’re currently flying as the quickest, most practical solution for bringing electric air travel to market,” Little said. “We are excited to be a part of Surf Air Mobility’s mission to electrify aviation and to bring sustainable innovation to market faster.”
That leads to the third announcement. SAM said it would partner with
AeroTEC, an aircraft development and integration company, and magniX, an electric propulsion company, to develop SAM’s launch product.
Per the agreement, Aerotec will develop proprietary powertrain technology
for SAM, while magniX will supply electric propulsion units for SAM’s hybrid electric powertrain, initially designed for the Cessna Grand Caravan. Once
its hybrid-electric propulsion technology is certified, SAM says it will
work with OEMs and third-party operators to upgrade their existing aircraft with the new hybrid-electric powertrains.
In a statement, SAM’s recently appointed chairman, Carl Albert, expressed enthusiasm about the SPAC merger with Tuscan, saying, “Surf Air Mobility is positioned to bring benefits to consumers quickly while creating
opportunities for the entire aviation industry.” Before his appointment,
Albert was the former chairman, CEO, and controlling shareholder of aircraft OEM Fairchild Dornier.
Meanwhile, Stephen Vogel, Tuscan Holdings’ chairman and CEO, called SAM’s
plan for decarbonizing aviation “practical” and said the strategy was based
on “tangible revenue.”
The companies say the combination of SAM, Southern, and the SPAC deal would generate approximately $100 million in 2022 revenue from all its business units, roughly a 50 percent year-over-year increase from 2021.
SPAC sponsors and SAM’s shareholders have also restricted a combined 51
percent of their shares in an earnout geared toward achieving specific operational and financial goals.
Regarding the partnership with AeroTEC and magniX, Sudhin Shahani,
co-founder and CEO of Surf Air Mobility, described “hybrid-electric
propulsion technology on existing aircraft” as the most significant step
toward decarbonization of aviation in this decade. Previously, magniX successfully flew the world’s largest fully electric aircraft to date, a prototype Cessna Grand Caravan 208B, called the eCaravan. AeroTEC will
provide engineering, testing, program management, and certification
expertise to support design, development, and FAA type certification.
Once developed, SAM plans to develop supplemental type certificates (STCs)
for its proprietary electrification solutions and would create a path for magniX’s existing pipeline of approximately 50 Grand Caravan aircraft.
SAM also said its initial hybrid-electric aircraft would not require
charging stations, new takeoff and landing infrastructure, or zoning
changes. These benefits, it said, would allow the aircraft to operate
anywhere in the U.S., unlocking more air travel potential for over 5,000 underserved public airports. Of the partnership, Lee Human, president and
CEO of AeroTEC, said, “Our decades of experience bringing new aviation technologies to market will help accelerate the commercialization of SAM’s hybrid-electric Cessna Grand Caravan and set the stage for the development
of additional aircraft types.” ----------------------------------------------------------------------
MagniX will supply motors for Surf Air's fleet of retrofitted Cessna Grand Caravans. In the photo, the company is testing an electric motor on a Cessna airframe.
By Marissa Nall – Reporter, Puget Sound Business Journal
May 18, 2022
A planned $1.42 billion public debut for private plane operator Surf Air Mobility, announced Wednesday, includes a deal with two Puget Sound-area aerospace companies working to develop electric aviation alternatives.
Los Angeles-based Surf Air said it has entered into an agreement with
Seattle engineering company AeroTEC and Everett-based electric airplane propulsion company MagniX to develop a line of retrofitted Cessna Grand Caravans.
The two companies previously partnered to modify a Cessna Caravan for
electric flight in 2020.
Surf Air will use the fleet of hybrid-electric planes, which fit up to 14
seats and carry around 3,500 pounds of cargo, to support its
membership-based on-demand charter operations. It is targeting technologies that would reduce emissions by 50%, thereby lowering operating costs around 25%.
“They’re on a real mission to provide a greener transportation solution in
the regional space, and we’re going to help them do that” by providing engineering and certification expertise, AeroTEC President Lee Human told
the Business Journal.
Surf Air plans to go public through a merger with special purpose
acquisition company Tuscan Holdings Corp., raising around $467 million in
gross proceeds. The deal also includes a bid to acquire Cessna Grand Caravan operator Southern Airways Corp., along with an agreement with aviation
services company Signature Aviation to roll out its monthly membership
service nationally. The company launched service in Seattle in 2017.
MagniX will supply electric motors for the aircraft, and AeroTEC will
provide engineering, testing and overhaul of the planes, as well as support
in getting them certified.
AeroTEC’s experience in securing supplemental type certificates from federal regulators for retrofitted aircraft are “well known,” and MagniX “is a
leader in the development of aircraft electric propulsion systems and innovation,” Surf Air co-founder and CEO Sudhin Shahani said in a news
“AeroTEC and magniX are perfect partners for SAM to accelerate
electrification of Cessna Grand Caravans and to lead the new era of green flying,” Shahani said.
The deal is a natural continuation of AeroTEC’s work since the 2020 demonstrator project, Human said. Design on the Surf Air venture will likely take place through mid-2023, with modification of the planes planned for the latter half of the year to support testing and certification work scheduled
by the end of 2024.
The fleet would operate using existing runway infrastructure, without
requiring charging stations, enabling commercial passenger operations at thousands of regional U.S. airports, Surf Air said.
This will be the first project for AeroTEC in which it is meaningfully
involved in production, Human added. Surf Air plans an initial run of 50 aircraft, with as many as 150 planes expected to be built in later years.
The project will be the fifth electric aircraft venture for AeroTEC, which
has also partnered with MagniX on NASA’s Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration program, with a test flight of a De Havilland Canada Dash 7 aircraft scheduled for 2025. Including contracts with Arlington, Snohomish County, electric airplane maker Eviation and Hawthorne, California-based Universal Hydrogen, sustainable aviation now accounts for around 70% of the company’s current portfolio of work, Human said.
“We want to have interesting projects and diverse projects for a variety of reasons,” he said, including to help it appeal to new hires as it aims to
fill open positions across the organization. “This will help us with a longer-term production business stream.”
While manufacturing at that scale will be new for AeroTEC, it takes
advantage of its growing manufacturing capabilities in Arlington and Moses Lake, Human added.
“We’re definitely positioned to do it,” he said. =============================================================