TriFan 600 to become a hybrid-electric with input from new partner
XTI Aircraft Company and Bye Aerospace have entered into an agreement to develop a hybrid-electric prototype of XTI’s TriFan 600 aircraft.
Riding the industry trend du jour, the TriFan init current form features three ducted fans, driven by two turboshaft engines, allowing it to perform vertical take-off and landing (VTOL).
Taking off vertically, its two wing fans rotate forward as it enters high-speed flight mode, and according to the company, will allow it to reach cruise speed within 90 seconds. By this point lift is provided by its wings, as with other fixed-wing aircraft, and it will reach a cruising altitude of around 35,000 feet within 10 minutes.
Once cruising, the central fuselage-mounted fan closes up, the aircraft flies directly to its destination and the process is reversed for landing.
According to XTI, the six-seat TriFan will travel at around 340 knots (almost 400 miles per hour), and be capable of a range of over 1,200 miles.
This year marks an uptick in the pace of development for XTI. Having hired AgustaWestland exec Robert J. LaBelle to head the company as CEO. “I view this position with XTI as a unique opportunity,” LaBelle said in February, “to help bring to the commercial market and business jet market a revolutionary new aircraft that people have been seeking and dreaming about for over 100 years.”
My biggest TriFan
The addition of Bye to the mix also appears to have changed some elements of the company’s design. In a press release, LaBelle explained that: “We’re continuing with our plan but we’ve made two important changes. First, with the engineering expertise of the team at Bye Aerospace, this first prototype will be powered by a state-of-the-art hybrid-electric propulsion system.”
“We’re replacing the transmission, gears, two large heavier engines and other components with electric motors, batteries, generators, and a single smaller turboshaft engine,” LaBelle continued.
That also means that a flying version of the aircraft should be built even sooner. “Because we’re now able to significantly reduce the weight and cost of producing the TriFan, our first prototype will be a full-size TriFan 600 instead of the 65% subscale version,” he said.
“Advanced electric power for aircraft makes the hybrid-electric configuration compelling for the TriFan,” added George Bye, founder, Chairman and CEO of Bye Aerospace. “We can now bring together into one extraordinary airplane, battery power, electric motors, and a light efficient engine in a vertical takeoff and landing platform. The TriFan will achieve unprecedented performance and operating economy while being safer, lighter, quieter and cleaner. We’re very excited to team with XTI on this game-changing VTOL project.”
Although the aircraft will almost certainly remain a hybrid, Bye’s comments suggest that the company has at least one eye on full-electric aviation as a viable destination. That means that any breakthroughs made now on systems such as the TriFan will undoubtedly benefit the future of electrified flight – VTOL or otherwise.
You can view a promo video for the TriFan below.