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Tier 1 Engineering achieves first flight of an all-electric Robinson e-R44 helicopter

Tier 1 Engineering said it has successfully completed the first flight of an all-electric Robinson e-R44 helicopter with a magniX electric propulsion unit on June 4. The three-minute flight took place at the Los Alamitos Army Airfield in California.

Tier 1 Engineering
Tier 1 Engineering achieved the first flight of a Robinson e-R44 helicopter with a magniX electric propulsion unit on June 4. Tier 1 Engineering/magniX Image

“magniX has been powering all-electric aircraft since December 2019, and this flight represents another first for the company as we have now electrified a rotary aircraft,” said Nuno Taborda, magniX’s CEO, in a press release. “This landmark event demonstrates yet again magniX’s commitment to lead the electrification of aviation by designing and delivering industry-leading products through smart innovation and customer centricity.”

Tier 1 is working to modify a Robinson R44 helicopter into an eVTOL aircraft, receiving its first magniX electric propulsion unit in December. The company’s launch partner Lung Biotechnology PBC, a United Therapeutics subsidiary, is planning to acquire a fleet of the e-R44 aircraft to transport life-saving organs with minimal impact on the environment.

Tier 1 started modifying the R44 helicopter in 2016 using its own battery system, and achieved its first flight with the 2,500-pound (1,135-kilogram) aircraft that year. The company currently holds four Guinness World Records, including firsts in electric flight, farthest distance and longest duration.

The company is continuing its flight test program, and is currently working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to obtain a supplemental type certificate.

“This historic flight of an all-electric helicopter with a certifiable electric engine was an important step toward obtaining aircraft certification,” said Glen Dromgoole, president of Tier 1 Engineering. “We are excited to expand the flight tests to greater distances and demonstrate safe, reliable all-electric flight.”

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