Rich Report Presents The Aircraft Company's New Regional Aircraft With A Wheelchair-Accessible Hybrid-Electric Concept

Rich Report Presents The Aircraft Company's New Regional Aircraft With A Wheelchair-Accessible Hybrid-Electric Concept
Courtesy by The AirCraft Company

The AirCraft Company is planning to manufacture a hybrid-electric, 30-seat regional airliner based in Wichita, Kansas. This new aircraft will be known as the Pangea SY30J and is scheduled to enter service in 2029. In common with new electric and hybrid aircraft, the Pangea will provide more point-to-point travel options, connecting small communities underserved by commercial aviation.


The AirCraft Company is different from its competitors in that it emphasizes accessibility and comfort. Furthermore, the cabin will be more spacious with larger seats that can accommodate "real-size" people, as well as wheelchairs. The FAA safety regulations and space constraints have prevented other commercial airlines from doing this.


Batteries-powered wheelchairs are too large and heavy to fly in an aircraft cabin and must be stored in the cargo area as per federal regulations.

The airline provides narrow air wheelchairs for passengers with disabilities, so they can either be carried on board or use them to board an airplane. When they board, they will still be required to sit in regular seats, which may not suit their needs. A wheelchair transported in a cargo compartment is often damaged or lost. Disabled people often experience stress, inconvenience, and humiliation when they fly.


Mario Asselin, chairman and co-CEO of The AirCraft Company, told FutureFlight that the wheelchair must be able to be wheeled down the aisle and used as a seat. With strap restraints, wheelchairs could be secured to cabin floors. Since wheelchairs aren't designed to meet the same safety standards as ordinary airplane seats, meeting FAA crashworthiness requirements may prove challenging.


Performing crashworthiness tests on every wheelchair type would require a large amount of resources, and the FAA does not currently have the funding to conduct such a campaign. As part of its plans to implement new rules allowing passengers to ride in their own wheelchairs on airplanes, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced last summer, but he said this would not happen overnight and could take years to accomplish.

While waiting for regulators to allow wheelchair users to stay in their wheelchairs during flight, The AirCraft Company is investigating several different ways to make their planes more accessible to wheelchair users. It's essential to offer space and a simple way to bring them in and out of the plane," Asselin said, "so we're going to have a bigger cabin with a 30 seater than what's currently available or planned, and we'll be able to maneuver wheelchairs inside."


In total, the Pangea SY30J will offer 30 seats in 10 rows, with single seats to the port side and rows of two to the starboard side. There will be 36 inches (91 cm) of pitch between each seat and the seat behind or in front of it. In comparison, an economy seat on a commercial airliner provides about 6 inches (15 cm) more legroom. In addition, Asselin says that Pangea seats will be at least 20 inches wide (50 cm) instead of the typical 17 inches.


By significantly reducing operating costs, The AirCraft Company plans to offer more affordable tickets than what's available today by providing more spacious seating on a typical commercial airliner. The company expects to reduce operating costs by up to 90 percent with single-pilot operations and hybrid-electric propulsion, according to Asselin.


With its hybrid-electric propulsion system, the Pangea will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions on flights up to about 250 miles (400 km). An airplane powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) can travel more than twice that distance with fewer emissions. A future version of The AirCraft Company's aircraft will run on hydrogen power rather than SAF, allowing it to fly for longer periods with no emissions.


In talking to potential airline customers, Asselin found that "in North America, they are more aligned with jet fuel and SAF, while in Europe they are more aligned with hydrogen, and even elsewhere, like New Zealand and Australia, they are aligned with hydrogen." It will therefore be an all-electric aircraft with a range extender that can be used by the customer if they prefer. A cargo-carrying and executive version of the Pangea with varying interior configurations will also be available from AirCraft.


As well as reducing operating costs and improving accessibility, another benefit of the Pangea is its relatively short runway-just 3,500 feet-for taking off and landing. Commercial airlines are not currently operating at airports where the Pangea can serve.


Ninety percent of the U.S. population lives within 17 miles of an airport with a 3,500-foot runway, according to a NASA study. 70 percent of all travelers use only 30 of the 5,000+ airports across the nation. Due to the fact that most commercial airplanes fly only to large airports with longer runways, the nation's vast network of airports is greatly underutilized. Since there are other airports much closer to travelers' homes and destinations, travelers often face long drives to and from major airports.


The AirCraft Company is still developing the design of the Pangea aircraft while running flight simulations and has not yet started building a prototype. Asselin did not reveal the amount of funding raised by the company or the number of employees it currently employs. However, between its two co-founders, the company already has 65 years of aviation experience. He co-founded the company with his wife, Sylvie St-Georges, a former flight test team chief at Bombardier Flight Test Center and a former program integration manager for Bombardier. Asselin, Inc. was founded by them to service Part 23 small airplanes and Part 25 transport airplanes..

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