Bye Aerospace believes its fleet of all-electric flyers will mean significantly lower operating costs for business aviation operators—one-fifth to one-tenth the costs of traditional business turboprops and jets, zero carbon dioxide emissions to improve environmental health, and reduced aircraft noise for business travelers and surrounding communities.
The Englewood, Colo.-based company is in an enviable position, as it has back orders for 876 flyers and is looking to ramp up production at a to-be-announced manufacturing site.
On the avionics front, the Garmin G500 is to be the digital flight deck for the company’s eFlyer 2 two-seater trainers, and Garmin is in the running for the eFlyer 4 and the eFlyer 800 eight-seat business aircraft.
“Garmin is our partner, and they’re doing a super job for us,” Bye Aerospace CEO George Bye, 64, a former U.S. Air Force T-38 and C-141 pilot who founded the company in 2007, told Avionics International. “The Garmin partnership starts with the eFlyer 2, and the Garmin 500 system will go in the eFlyer 2. The eFlyer 4 and eFlyer 800 haven’t been formally announced, but the go-forward assumption is some kind of a Garmin system for the eFlyer 4 as well as the eFlyer 800. Garmin has a great system on several turboprops and several light jets.”
The Garmin G500 TXi is “a great system and could certainly be on the eFlyer 4, the four-seater, as well,” Bye said. “It’s likely we would look at a more turboprop category avionics system for the eFlyer 800.”
It appears likely that the eFlyer 800 will have autopilot and an Autoland feature which will allow autonomous landings if the pilot becomes incapacitated. Autoland is already a feature on the Piper M600 SLS turboprop and Cirrus Aircraft’s Vision Jet—both equipped with the Garmin G3000 integrated flight deck.
Bye Aerospace may announce the avionics systems for the eFlyer 4 and eFlyer 800 early next year.
Carl Wolf, the vice president of aviation sales and marketing, has said that Garmin tailored the G500TXi high-resolution, touchscreen system for the eFlyer 2 “to display its electric propulsion information” and to add safety-enhancing synthetic vision, terrain and traffic alerts, and geo-referenced charts.
Bye Aerospace and Safran are developing the electric power train for the eFlyer 800, which is to use lithium-sulfur battery cells and two wing-mounted electric motors with dual redundant motor windings and quad redundant battery packs.
The aircraft is to have one-fifth the operating costs of a Beechcraft King Air, a normal cruise speed of 280 knots, a 35,000-foot operating ceiling, and a range of 507 nautical miles with 45-minute IFR reserves. At a top speed of 320 knots, the eFlyer 800 is to have a 443 nautical mile range. The 65-inch wide cabin of the eFlyer 800 is “almost a foot wider than a King Air,” Bye said.
Bye Aerospace unveiled the eFlyer 800 in April. In addition to the business aviation and training market, the eFlyer 800 may also see military applications. Bye Aerospace has teamed with L3Harris Technologies to develop a multi-mission intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) suite for the eFlyer 800.
“The eFlyer 800 will offer excellent mission range, persistent overwatch, and payload capacity with the added benefits of one-fifth of a traditional turboprop’s operating cost, zero emissions, and a minimal logistical footprint for operations in the field,” Bye Aerospace has said.
The secret sauce for Bye Aerospace in the competition against traditional business aviation companies may be the significantly lower operating costs for all-electric aircraft if achieved.
“I think the most significant, and I would say, disruptive [advantage] is operating costs,” Bye said. “The people who fly are sensitive to cost, the cost of energy, the cost of operations. If you have a high-tech, state-of-the-art avionics system; incredible redundancy and safety; a sleek, beautiful appearance; and high speed/high performance, that’s going to change the world.”
Bye Aerospace wants its all-electric fleet to be comfortable for pilots and passengers alike. The eFlyer 2 primary training aircraft’s 46 inch-wide cabin and the eFlyer 4’s 48-inch wide cabin are nearly a foot wider than comparable Cessna and Piper planes and are comparable to the 49-inch cabin width in the Cirrus SR 22.
The 876 Bye Aerospace flyers on order so far include international and domestic operators, including Los Angeles-based air taxi operator Quantum Air, which ordered 26 eFlyers in 2019; the Netherlands’ KLM Flight Academy, which recently ordered for six eFlyer 2s and eight eFlyer 4s; and Germany’s Rheinland Air Service GmbH which has ordered five eFlyer 800s.
Jet It, and JetClub, fractional ownership sister companies in North America and Europe respectively, are to be the launch customers for the eFlyer 800.
“As an aviation company run by aviators, we believe electric propulsion is the next major innovation in air travel, and Bye Aerospace will be one of the very few manufacturers able to certify an environmentally sustainable aircraft that meets the needs of our expanding customer base,” according to Glenn Gonzales, the founder and CEO of Jet It.
Vishal Hiremath, the founder and CEO of JetClub, said that, while private aviation contributes, just .04 percent of global emissions, “we are working toward zero percent.”
Hiremath said that Bye Aerospace fits with Jet Club’s vision of “resilient, zero-emission and affordable private travel.”
Bye Aerospace intends for its eFlyer 2 and eFlyer 4 to be the first all-electric trainer and general aviation aircraft certified by the FAA.
“First deliveries, starting with the eFlyer 2, are early in 2023, depending on the customer,” Bye said.
The task of scaling up production to meet the 876 flyers on order will be a challenge, he said. “We’ll be announcing our production facility here shortly. It’s going to be a big deal to scale. That’s a major undertaking.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may certify the eFlyer 2 next year or early 2023, followed by the eFlyer 400 in late 2023 or early 2024, and the eFlyer 800 in late 2025 or early 2026.
Bye glimpsed in the Toyota Prius and early Tesla prototypes the electrification “megatrend” beyond cars some fifteen years ago—a megatrend that would only advance with the market for smaller cell phones and other consumer technologies.
“We flew electric and solar electric prototypes,” he said. “As the technology continued to mature and the FAA passed 14 CFR 23, Amendment 64, we literally were on board the first applicant in the world for that electric capability. It’s an honor and a responsibility to do this well.”
Amendment 64, which is expected to ease the certification of hybrid and electric propulsion aircraft, went into effect in 2017.
The international community’s stance on reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming may hasten the adoption of electric business aircraft as a standard over the next decade.
“I think it’s unstoppable,” Bye said of the movement toward electric aircraft. “The politics around CO2 and climate change are here to stay. Electric eliminates CO2. It’s operating costs, of course, but it’s also no CO2 and very little noise. That political trend is not changing. We’re transitioning to electric all across the globe, but certainly, in some places in Europe and here in the U.S. and elsewhere, there’s a great sensitivity to the politics around climate change.”