magniX, the pioneer powering the electric aviation revolution, announced that Tier 1 Engineering, specialists in the design and development of electric aircraft, achieved a successful first flight of an all-electric Robinson 44 helicopter with a magniX electric propulsion unit (EPU). The helicopter flew on Saturday, June 4 at 8:00 am Pacific Time for over three minutes at Los Alamitos Army Airfield, California.

According to the PR: Tier 1 is developing the all-electric Robinson R44 for Lung Biotechnology PBC, a biotech company on a mission to address the severe shortage of transplantable organs in the U.S. Tier 1 Engineering integrated its battery system and the magniX EPU on the helicopter, and has started its flight testing program.

magniX has been powering all-electric aircraft since December of 2019, and this flight represents another first for the company as we have now electrified a rotary aircraft,” said Nuno Taborda, magniX’s CEO. “This landmark event demonstrates yet again magniX’s commitment to lead the electrification of aviation by designing and delivering industry-leading products through smart innovation and customer centricity. This is a significant achievement that will lead to the sustainable delivery of life saving organs.

Tier 1 Engineering is currently working with the FAA Aircraft Certification Office in Los Angeles on the e-R44 project to obtain a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). Lung Biotechnology PBC plans to acquire a fleet of aircraft to fly transplant organs.

This historic flight, of an all-electric helicopter with a certifiable electric engine, was an important step towards obtaining aircraft certification. We are excited to expand the flight tests to greater distances and demonstrate safe, reliable all-electric flight,” said Glen Dromgoole, President of Tier 1 Engineering.


One has to ask, what is the significance of using electric power on a small helicopter?  For the organ transplant company, perhaps it is quiet operations. Sustainability is nice, but the critical nature of their work is about timeliness above all else.  It appears the box ticked here is being on the right right ecological side.

For magniX though, this is far bigger news. The Robinson helicopter is small and flies short hops.  Moving the aircraft from turbine to electric is a great story. Like the storied Beaver, the Robinson is now moving to a third power source.  In markets like cities, having quiet helicopters is very attractive – think Sao Paolo for example, the busiest helicopter market in the world.  It is also important to consider that the Robinson is a well known aircraft already certified.  Certifying its new power source is a lot less complex than certifying an entirely new eVTOL.  If you’re looking for a quiet cross-city ride, this may be a much sooner to market option than anything else. 

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Addison Schonland
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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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