Montreal’s CAE plans to electrify Piper’s popular single-engine plane

posted on 22nd July 2022 by Eddie Saunders
Montreal's CAE plans to electrify Piper's popular single-engine plane

Marisa Coulton,

Montreal-based CAE Inc. announced that it will partner with Piper Aircraft Inc. to electrify the Piper Archer, a well-known single-engine plane.

CAE, which offers training services to aircraft manufacturers and airlines, uses the Piper Archer plane in its training fleet. The company said July 19 that it plans to convert two-thirds of its Piper Archer fleet to electric models, and to develop a curriculum that will train pilots on the operation of electric aircraft. To this end, CAE and Piper Aircraft will develop a “conversion kit” that will enable the planes, which are normally gas-powered, to be made electric.

“The development of this technology is a first for CAE,” CEO Marc Parent said in the release. “CAE is uniquely positioned to make electric-powered flight a reality at our flight schools and beyond.”

The Piper Archer is part of a family of two- to four-seat light aircraft built by Piper Aircraft, and is “among one of the most recognized single-engine, four-place aircraft available today for the private owner,” according to Piper’s website. The plane starts at US$449,803.

The partnership symbolizes a broader trend toward the electrification of the aviation sector, which releases one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. That figure is expected to triple by 2050, so airlines all over the world are working toward emissions-free commercial flights. United Airlines Inc. is expected to be the first major airline to roll out electric commercial flights in 2026. Denmark and Sweden plan to make all domestic flights fossil fuel-free by 2030. In Canada, CAE is leading the charge, and became the first Canadian aerospace company to become carbon neutral in 2020, according to a press release.

The electrification of the Piper Archer won’t be easy. Electric batteries are not yet as energy dense as fuel, so many batteries would be required to generate a comparative level of power. The weight of the batteries could make the planes less aerodynamic.

“Piper Aircraft is focused on aviation’s commitment to greenhouse gas reductions,” CEO John Calcagno said in the press release. “As such, we look forward to collaborating with CAE on the integration of an electric propulsion system for the Piper Archer.”

The development of the electric conversion kit is part of a broader $1 billion project between CAE, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Quebec, aimed toward developing “aviation and cross-sectoral digital technologies of the future,” the press release said.

“CAE understands that the aerospace industry needs to shift to reducing its environmental footprint through new technology,” Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s economy minister, said in the release. “This is the type of project we intend to support so they can develop innovative solutions that will make air transportation more electric.”