Dovetail Runs Fuel Cell For King Air Flight Tests

Dovetail Electric Aviation
Dovetail is planning to convert the Beechcraft King Air to hydrogen-electric propulsion.
Credit: Dovetail Electric Aviation

SINGAPORE—Dovetail Electric Aviation, a Spanish-Australian company, has begun tests of an integrated hydrogen fuel-cell powerplant targeted at flight tests on a modified Beechcraft King Air.

The company, which is focused first on developing a battery-electric propulsion retrofit for the Cessna Caravan, is also developing the fuel cell propulsion system as a longer-term follow-on program for short-range and regional turboprop reengining. The hydrogen fuel cell is based on a low-temperature polymer-electrolyte membrane, or PEM—also called a proton-exchange membrane. The system was developed for automotive applications by Hyundai Motor Group’s HTWO unit.

Tests of the unit were conducted at Dovetail’s Latrobe Regional Airport facility near Melbourne, Australia, says CEO and co-founder David Doral. Speaking to Aviation Week at an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) Insights event in Singapore, he adds that the integrated propulsion system incorporates the fuel cell with a 250 kW-plus electric motor, power electronics and controls.

Doral says work meanwhile continues on the battery-electric powered Caravan, which is expected to make its first flight in 2025 with certification targeted for 2026. In 2023, Dovetail finished initial ground tests of a half-scale electric propulsion system powering a three-blade propeller. The iron bird function test, named DTX0.5, used MagniX’s magni250 prototype electric motor as a precursor to the larger and more recently released 350-kW magni350 and 650-kW magni650 motors.

The initial application is expected to be a seaplane version of the Caravan. In December 2022, Air Nostrum and Spanish airline Volotea acquired minority stakes in Dante Aeronautical, which founded Dovetail in 2021 with Australia’s Sydney Seaplanes. Dovetail and Air Nostrum, which in November 2023 signed an agreement to purchase 10 battery- and hydrogen-electric aircraft conversions, are also working together to identify routes where electric aircraft can be viable in the short term.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.

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