Business travel is going egg-shaped. Otto Aviation’s Celera 500L was just put through its paces with its first flight tests, a press statement reveals. The aircraft was designed as a business aircraft that is much cheaper to run than today’s options.
To achieve this ambitious goal, the Celera employs an egg-like design that achieves laminar flow — the uninterrupted flow of air — when in flight, vastly reducing drag by allowing air to flow smoothly over the aircraft’s surface.
An aircraft designed to achieve ‘laminar flow’
The Celera’s design means the aircraft offers a 59 percent reduction in drag compared to similarly-sized aircraft. This means it burns much less fuel, making it a more sustainable, as well as more affordable alternative.
According to NASA, laminar flow is “the holy grail of low drag” for aerospace engineers. Interestingly though, it’s never such a focal point for the design of commercial airliners. In an interview with CNN, Otto Aviation founder William Otto Jr. explained the challenges of achieving laminar flow in an aircraft: “to maintain laminar flow you have to create structures that don’t flex, bend or distort the shape,” he said. “You could never do this with metal, composites are really the only way.”
Otto Aviation also points out that its recent Phase One test flights were run using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and that they further validated “the Celera 500L’s potential to revolutionize sustainable air travel in an aircraft that already has 80 percent lower fuel consumption than comparable aircraft.” The company also stated that Phase One of its test flights, totaling some 50 separate flights, has successfully “validated the aircraft’s operating performance goals.”
The Celera 500L will fly six passengers at speeds of 460 mph (740 km/h) with a range of 4,500 miles (7,242 km), which is comparable to a traditional airliner. According to CNN, Otto Aviation also claims that operating the Celera will cost $328 an hour compared to $2,100 with a fuel economy of 18 to 25 miles per gallon.
Otto Aviation aims to have the Celera 500L in operation by 2025, but before that, it will need to reach higher altitudes than the 17,000 feet it achieved in its latest flight tests.
“The data from our first phase of test flights shows that we are on the path to achieving our goals for the aircraft,” Otto Jr. explained in the company’s press statement. “We couldn’t be more excited in this step toward our mission of having a production aircraft in 2025 and we look forward to beginning the next phase of development where we will take the aircraft to higher altitudes and higher speeds.”
Otto Aviation says that discussions are underway with several major airlines. Before that, it aims to sell the Celera to private customers at a cost of approximately $5 million per aircraft — we said it was cheap to operate, not to build.