Over three years since the mysterious bullet-shaped aircraft was first spotted by eager onlookers near Victorville, California, US company Otto Aviation has finally unveiled the Celera 500L – its futuristic, low-emission, long range, fuel efficient aircraft.
— John Wiseman (@lemonodor) April 16, 2017
After being developed in secret for more than a decade, the unique plane is set to seriously shake-up the future of the aviation industry, and potentially democratise private plane use.
The aircraft holds up to six first-class passengers, and promises to fly at the same speed as a jet, yet do so with eight times lower fuel consumption, and fly twice as far as a comparably sized plane.
Otto Aviation said the revolutionary plane has now made 31 test flights since November and proved itself to be “the most fuel-efficient, commercially viable aircraft in existence”, and could offer private plane charter for the same cost as a traditional airline flight.
The unique bullet shape of the aircraft promotes “laminar flow”, which sees air pass around its fuselage and wings smoothly, reducing the turbulence and drag experienced in traditional aircraft.
Its aerodynamic frame means the Celera 500L requires a lot less horsepower to achieve takeoff and cruise speeds, and is powered by the RED A03 engine.
The plane is powered by a liquid-cooled 12-cylinder diesel engine, which turns a “pusher” propeller atop its tail, which offers “best-in-class efficiency”, and is certified to operate on Jet A1 and biodiesel.
The Celera 500L is said to fly up to 724km/h, and boasts operating costs of about US$334 per hour, approximately six times lower than jets of a similar size.
Meanwhile, fuel consumption at between 29 kilometres to 40 kilometres a gallon (approx. 3.8 litres) is as little as an eighth of that of a small jet aircraft.
Bill Otto, a seasoned aerospace scientist and founder of Otto Aviation, said the Celera 500L could enter service as soon as 2023.
The plane’s entrance to the market is also likely to benefit greatly in the post-COVID climate, boasting private long-distance travel for families or small groups, with seats that cost no more per person than a traditional commercial flight, Otto said.
“Of course, we didn’t anticipate COVID-19 but there are enhanced market opportunities in being able to afford to fly with only those you choose to,” Otto told CNN.
Different to other short-range, drone-style air taxis that are currently under development, the Celera 500L has a longer range, and has the capacity to fly non-stop anywhere in North America, he claimed.
“Our goal was to create a private aircraft that would allow for direct flights between any city pair in the US at speeds and cost comparable to commercial air travel,” Otto said.
While the recently-unveiled plane is window-free in its current state, Otto said that the passenger version will have windows.
“The windows will not have an impact on laminar flow, as they are mounted flush and have the same contours as the exterior shape of the fuselage,” he explains.
The company is reportedly planning a second model, twice the size of its 500, which may use a hybrid electric and internal combustion engine.