When this mysterious bullet-shaped airplane was first spotted at the Southern California Logistics Airport near Victorville, about three years ago, it sparked a lot of speculation in aviation circles.
Bearing a strong resemblance to Chuck Yeager’s famous X-1 test plane of the 1950s, it was the military website, The War Zone, that was first to report it was the work of California-based Otto Aviation, and that the development was very much under wraps.
Now, in the late summer of the strangest year in aviation history, the Celera 500L has finally been revealed to the world, with the launch of a new website and some very cool new photos, CNN reported.
What we’re looking at is a six-person private craft that promises to fly at jet speeds, but with eight times lower fuel consumption, and a range that’s twice that of a comparably sized craft. Bold claims indeed.
Otto Aviation says on its website that 31 successful test flights have so far been performed, with aerodynamic efficiency proven in 2019, bolstering its declaration that “the Celera 500L is the most fuel-efficient, commercially viable aircraft in existence.”
The company, founded in 2008 and an offshoot of Bill Otto’s Otto Laboratories, says that the Celera 500L runs at 18 to 25 miles-per-gallon fuel economy (compared to the 2-3 miles-per-gallon of a comparable jet aircraft), CNN reported.
Then there are the modest US$328 hourly operating costs, which are about six times lower, and the generous 4,500-nautical-mile range. Maximum cruise speed is projected to reach more than 460 mph.
“Our goal has always been to create a safe and private aircraft that would allow for direct flights in the US at speeds and cost comparable to commercial air travel,” company CEO Bill Otto Jr. tells CNN.
The range is such that the Celera 500L would be able to service nearly every city pairing in the United States without refueling.
The reason its aircraft can do all this, says Otto Aviation, is down to laminar flow. Laminar flow is the minimum drag solution for aircraft surfaces, explains its website, and features smooth layers of airflow with little to no mixing of adjacent layers, CNN reported.
The Celera 500L’s fuselage takes advantage of an optimum length-to-width ratio to maximize laminar flow. Laminar shapes are also used for the wings and tail sections.
Inside, the cabin is spacious enough, with its 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) height and six first-class equivalent seats with customizable configuration, CNN reported.
With its aerodynamic airframe meaning it requires a lot less horsepower to achieve takeoff and cruise speeds, the Celera 500L is powered by the RED A03 engine. It has a liquid-cooled V12 twin six-cylinder bank and, says Otto Aviation, offers best-in-class efficiency.
While the newly unveiled plane is window-free, Otto tells CNN that the passenger version will have windows, and “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.”
Otto Aviation has completed its first funding rounds and those successful test flights, but they still need to begin the FAA certification process, find a location for a manufacturing facility and create an initial order book.
All amidst an industry which has been decimated by a pandemic which has been keeping people in their homes and out of the air.
“Launching amid the current aviation landscape has only bolstered what we aim to provide with the Celera 500L,” declares Otto to CNN. “We believe that when the price of private air travel is competitive with commercial air travel, an enormous market opportunity will result.”
The company also has visions for the Celera 1000L, whiich is the Celera 500L scaled up 20% while maintaining its laminar flow. This means close to doubling cabin size, allowing more passengers or more freight.
If FAA certification and finding a manufacturing facility goes to plan, we could see the first commercial deliveries of the Celera 500L by 2025.