Four years is an ambitious schedule to develop, manufacture and certify a brand new hybrid-electric airliner but that’s the target set by Boeing-backed startup Zunum Aero to deliver its first production aircraft.
The launch customer for Zunum Aero’s 12-seat ZA10 is JetSuite, a small charter airline backed by both JetBlue Airways and Qatar Airways.
Ashish Kumar, Zunum’s chief executive officer, said, “We [JetSuite and Zunum] have a shared vision for fundamentally transforming and improving the way that people live and travel.”
The plan is for Zunum to provide the ZA10, with a range of 700 miles, for JetSuite’s private charter operation in 2022, and the larger ZA50, with a 1,000-mile range, for the JetSuiteX scheduled flight service in the mid-2020s.
JetSuiteX currently operates a scheduled service along the US West Coast flying Embraer 30-seat ERJ135 regional jets. The point-of-difference with other airlines is that JetSuiteX has private air terminals in California and Las Vegas.
Zunum is developing and testing prototype electric systems and components for a prototype to be built in 2019, followed by flight testing. Bloomberg reports that Zunum is planning to adapt an existing airliner airframe at first to speed up the development process.