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Taking Flight To The Next Level: The Ampaire EEL

A little bit of history was made in Orkney on Thursday, 12th of August 2021. Scotland’s first hybrid electric aircraft flew in from Wick, landing at Kirkwall airport.

The Ampaire EEL is a modified six seater Cessna 337. It runs on battery power and a conventional combustion engine.

Orkney has a long association with the development of aircraft technology which Co-founder and CEO of Ampaire Kevin Noertker realised because he was staying at Houton Bay Lodge, Orphir. It was at the bay at Houton where some of the very earliest trials took place in the development of seaplanes.

Image courtesy Orkney Aviation Festival

The first landing of a plane onto a moving ship took place in Scapa Flow on 2nd August 1917 by Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning. The development of all those early aircraft was fraught with dangers for the pilots and Edwin Dunning was killed only a few days after attempting to repeat that landing.

Aircraft technology is now moving into a new phase with engineers seeking a way to develop forms of flight that are carbon neutral.

With the Ampaire EEL a compromise has been made to produce the hybrid model. Battery technology is the limiting factor and for the EEL it is located under the aircraft. Remember this is developing technology and the flight on Thursday was another step forward.

The EEL flew at 3,500 feet from Wick at 120 miles per hour in what must have been near to perfect flying weather for the Northern Isles. Ampaire see this as a way of providing smaller regional airlines the opportunity of reducing omissions and costs with this aircraft.

Other demonstration flights will take place in the south of England. In Orkney, located at Kirkwall airport is the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) – a collaborative project being led by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL).

The Orkney News was able to film the Ampaire EEL landing at Kirkwall airport and interview test pilot, Justin Gillen and Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker. You can view that film here or on The Orkney News YouTube channel.

It’s not always obvious when history is being made but on Thursday we witnessed the enthusiasm and skill of the engineers, designers and pilots taking flight to the next level.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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