Hartzell Prepares For Advanced Air Mobility Future

Piper M350
A Piper M350 single-engine piston fitted with a Hartzell Propeller.
Credit: Bill Carey

Advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft present a new market opportunity for 105-year-old Hartzell Propeller.

“We see this as an evolution to be able to continue to serve aircraft,” said Mitch Heaton, recently appointed as Hartzell Propeller director of business development and new technology. “It’s an evolution of a new set of aircraft. For the most part, we see it as a complement to what we already do.”

Piqua, Ohio-based Hartzell Propeller manufactures aluminum and structural composite propellers for piston-engine and turboprop aircraft. The company says it has dedicated tens of thousands of engineering and development hours to electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered aircraft since 2019, and it is currently working with several AAM aircraft developers to fine-tune their propeller applications.

Hartzell already has served as a supplier on two electric-powered aircraft under development; in both cases supplying propellers that interface with MagniX propulsion systems. The company developed customized propellers for the nine-passenger Eviation Alice, which is powered by two tail-mounted magni650 electric propulsion units. It supplied a four-blade composite propeller for the modified Harbour Air DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane that made the first flight of an all-electric aircraft in December 2019 using a magni500 propulsion system.

The company expects to supply propellers for conventional, fixed-wing aircraft types fitted with electric propulsion units—such as the Alice and DHC-2 Beaver—as well as proprotors for more unconventional electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) platforms.

“My role as we grow within this space [covers] not just eVTOL but eSTOL (electric short takeoff and landing), eCTOL (electric conventnional short takeoff and landing) and companies like Eviation with traditional airplanes but with electric or hydrogen or hybrid power,” Heaton said. “We’re really looking at Advanced Air Mobility as all things non-traditional avgas.”

Drone deliveries

Mitch Heaton of Hartzell Propeller
Mitch Heaton, Hartzell Propeller director of business development and new technology. Credit: Hartzell Propeller

Heaton ran his own consultancy before joining Hartzell Propeller and previously served as director of development and external relations for the Wright State University College of Engineering and Computer Science. He has also served as vice president of economic development for the Dayton Development Coalition and executive vice president of growth strategies for commercial real estate development firm Woodard Development. Heaton is a member of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association Electric Propulsion Innovation Committee and the NBAA Emerging Technologies Committee.

As a consultant, Heaton advised Drone Express, a division of Telegrid Technologies, on starting a drone delivery service in Centerville, Ohio, with grocery retail chain Kroger in 2021. Drone Express and Kroger will soon launch a second store location for drone deliveries, he said.

The interface of propeller and propulsion unit has been a challenge in developing propellers for AAM platforms, Heaton said. “The biggest difference that we’ve had to adjust to more is how you attach the electric motor as opposed to a gas engine—the attachment of the motor to the propeller itself and how we do that is the difference maker,” he said. “It probably took us a year or so to come up with four different designs that are offered.”

Hartzell is developing a shank-less system to reduce propeller weight and is working with other companies and research institutions on next generation composites. The company has added 80 workers in the last year—it now employs 350 people—and plans to add a fifth facility for expanded operations. It now has a main propeller plant, a dedicated composites facility, a test lab and a service center at Piqua Airport/Hartzell Field (KI17).


Bill Carey

Based in Washington, D.C., Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.