MintAir this week took another step towards its goal of operating regional air services in South Korea by signing a letter of intent to purchase 50 of Electra’s planned nine-passenger eSTOL aircraft. Initially, the company says, it will operate the fixed-wing aircraft, which should be able to land and take off in as little as 300 feet, from existing airports as new infrastructure becomes available in and around cities.
The hybrid-electric Electra eSTOL is expected to be able to operate on routes up to 800 km and carry 1,800 pounds of cargo instead of passengers. According to MintAir, from its initial operating hub in Seongnam City (a suburb of the capital, Seoul), it will be able to reach anywhere in Korea, including the remote islands of Jejudo and Ulleungdo.
The city of Seongnam in Gyeonggi Province is just over 26 km from the Gangnam district of downtown Seoul. It is at the heart of Korea’s so-called Silicon Valley with its concentration of high-tech companies.
“Our mission is to develop the safest advanced air mobility service on urban and regional routes, thereby contributing to the decarbonization of the aviation industry,” said MintAir CEO and Co-Founder Eugene Choi. “We chose Electra’s eSTOL because of its superior safety, the energy efficiency of its blown-lift technology, its lower operating costs and the clear path to certification as an aircraft at fixed wing.”
In September, Electra completed ground testing of its 150kW hybrid-electric propulsion system and announced it was now integrating the equipment into a piloted technology demonstration aircraft it plans to take to the skies for the first time. before the end of this year. The American company says it has 20 potential customers for the eSTOL model, with commitments also made by the Bristow helicopter group, and the charter flight booking platforms Yugo in Singapore, Flapper in Brazil and Flyv in Germany. In June, it partnered with another eSTOL aircraft developer called Airflow, which it acquired.
The deal with Electra announced on Sept. 27 comes just under a month after Incheon-based MintAir signed a letter of intent to purchase up to 40 four-passenger Journey eVTOL aircraft from Jaunt Air Mobility and become the exclusive partner of the American manufacturer in Korea. This aircraft is expected to operate on routes up to approximately 100 miles.
MintAir was founded in 2014, initially as a developer of overheating conductors which it supplied to major companies such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. It refocused its activities on electric aviation in June 2021 by signing a memorandum of understanding with the American company Skyworks Aeronautics for the exclusive rights to its electric gyrocopter eHawk.
Along with MintAir co-founder and chief strategy officer Jongwon Park, Choi also runs a California-based affiliate company called Mobius Energy that develops mobile charging stations for vertiports.
Electra also announced this week that it recently completed a first flight with its Dawn One unmanned solar-electric research aircraft from its facility in Manassas, Virginia. The plane, which took off on September 9, is part of the Stratospheric Airborne Climate Observing System, led by Harvard University and funded by NASA and the Weld Foundation for Scientific and Environmental Development.