JUILLAN, France—A hybrid-electric aircraft developed by Airbus, Daher and Safran has made an inaugural test flight here. The EcoPulse is a modified Daher TBM 900 turboprop that uses a traditional engine for take off and landing, but a hybrid-propulsion system at cruising altitude.

Airbus engineers developed a high-energy-density battery; aerodynamic and acoustic integration of the distributed-propulsion system; and a flight control computer system. They also modified the shape of the aircraft to assess the performance impact of having a distributed propulsion system.

“This is a major milestone for our industry and we’re proud to have powered the EcoPulse demonstrator first flight with our new battery systems,” says Sabine Klauke, chief technical officer at Airbus. "High-energy density batteries will be necessary to reduce carbon emissions from aviation, whether for light aircraft, advanced air mobility or large hybrid-electric aircraft. Projects like EcoPulse are key to accelerating progress in electric and hybrid electric flight, and a cornerstone of our aim to decarbonize the aerospace industry as a whole.”

“We confirmed today that this disruptive propulsion system works in flight, which paves the way for more sustainable aviation,” adds Eric Dalbiès, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Safran. “The lessons learned from upcoming flight tests will feed into our technology roadmap and strengthen our position as leader in future all-electric and hybrid-electric propulsive systems.”

Flight testing of the demonstrator will last until mid-2024 and will include up to 30 flights. Airbus plans to use the lightweight, high-voltage battery system in next-generation airplanes and helicopters.