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Helicopter operator Bristow partners with Electra on eSTOL development

The offshore helicopter operator Bristow Group will be the principal launch customer for Electra.aero’s hybrid electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft, the companies announced on Aug. 26.

Bristow Electra eSTOL
Bristow and Electra said they will collaborate on developing a full range of safety and operational features for Electra’s new eSTOL aircraft. Electra Image

Bristow and Electra have signed agreements that will see them cooperate on the technical development and certification of Electra’s eSTOL aircraft, as well as marketing and future operations. Electra expects to deliver 50 or more aircraft to Bristow for use in existing and new markets including middle mile logistics for retail distribution.

“This [memorandum of understanding] sets the stage for early collaboration and development between Bristow and Electra for a new class of aircraft that will allow us to take advantage of the unique capabilities of electric and hybrid power generation technologies to substantially lower carbon emissions and operating costs,” Bristow president and CEO Chris Bradshaw stated in a press release.

“This will allow us to expand our expertise providing sustainable, innovative and efficient vertical lift and aerial transport solutions into new potential end markets like moving time-sensitive cargo and passengers regionally.”

Bristow — which currently derives more than 70% of its revenue from the oil-and-gas market, mostly by flying personnel to offshore platforms — has been transparent about its ambitions to expand into the advanced air mobility space. However, most of its public conversations on the subject to date have centered on the potential of eVTOL air taxis for urban air mobility.

The announcement with Electra reveals that the operator is exploring a broader range of aircraft and applications. According to Electra founder and CEO John Langford, the collaboration with Bristow “will lead to a more rigorous aircraft capable of addressing operators’ needs across a variety of use cases and will help Electra develop and certify an eSTOL aircraft in as short a period of time as possible.”

Electra claims that its eSTOL plane will be able to operate from runways as short as 300 feet, although this is a point of contention. The company is designing its aircraft to transport up to 1,800 pounds (815 kilograms) of cargo or move five to seven passengers about 400 to 500 miles (645 to 800 kilometers). Electra plans to start flight testing a full-scale technology demonstrator next year, with Federal Aviation Administration certification of a commercial model targeted for 2026.

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