The Celera 500l is a new type of private aircraft developed by William “Bill” Otto, the founder of Otto Laboratories in 1974 and head of Otto Aviation Group since 2008. The aircraft was designed to tackle air travel problems that William Otto identified as an air traveler himself over the years. Some of the main issues identified include:
Inconveniences from commercial air travel such as flight delays, cancellations, and troublesome connections.
Carbon emissions that are harmful to the environment.
Limited range of electric aircraft found in the market.
With these problems in mind, Otto and his team developed the Celera 500l as a solution that would make a reality having the convenience of a private aircraft at low cost and with a reduced carbon footprint in a commercially viable aircraft.
The Otto Aviation Group is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) created to have a team helping William Otto with the development of the Celera 500l to the point of getting FAA certification for its production. The company relies on a highly-trained team of experts in different areas such as physics, engineering, aeronautics, fluid dynamics, materials, structures, avionics, landing gear, hydraulics, and flight testing.
When visiting the company website, a series of impressive features of the Celera 500l jumps to the eye. Otto Aviation presents the following numbers:
18 to 25 mpg fuel economy.
$328 operating costs per hour.
Maximum cruise speed over 460 mph.
4,500 nautical mile range, being able to connect any city pair in the US.
A payload of 6 adult passengers.
A comfortable 6’2” cabin height with 6 first-class seats.
A significant carbon emissions reduction that beats FAA and ICAO target emissions standards for aircraft entering service in or after 2031 by over 30%. This makes it a very environmentally friendly airplane.
Apart from the numbers above, they also claim that the Celera 500l design allows a transcontinental range for direct flights with operating costs equal to or better than commercial airfares.
Also, Otto Aviation mentions that the Celera 500l design achieves extremely low drag across the entire aircraft through extensive use of laminar flow surfaces for the wings, fuselage, and tail sections. Let’s take a closer look at the latter.
Laminar Flow and Aircraft Performance
When it comes to fluid dynamics, there are two possible types of flow, turbulent and laminar flow. In aviation, the laminar flow is desired, and the turbulent flow is avoided as much as possible. This is because turbulent flow on the aircraft surfaces increases skin friction drag, resulting in reduced aerodynamic and fuel efficiency. Obviously, the opposite happens when we have laminar flow since the air moves in smooth layers. A significantly reduced drag makes the aircraft more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient.
Based on this, if Otto Aviation has made it possible for the Celera 500l to be full of laminar shapes, then the Celera 500l could be the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the sky.
Everything sounds impressive so far, but is this really inexpensive?
How much does a Celera 500L cost?
This is an aspect that must be looked at with perspective. While the price tag of an aircraft like the Celera 500l might be a huge number, beginning with the engine that reaches a $230,000 price and Bill Otto saying they are targeting the Pilatus PC-12 price range of $5 million, owning a Celera 500l could indeed be good business.
We already mentioned that the Celera 500l could offer operating costs of around $328 per hour. Assuming seats can be sold at the same price as equivalent first-class seats, the six passengers in the Celera 500l could provide about $6000 per flight, which translates into significant profitability. It is true that since the pandemic, these numbers may be feeling the pressure and will be lower for quite some time, but still, at an economic-class range per seat, there’s some profit to take.
Now, you may wonder how all these compare to a similar jet aircraft. Let’s see.
Comparable Jet Aircraft
When matched with comparable jet aircraft, the Celera 500l may seem unbeatable if the claims made by Otto Aviation become a reality.
It is essential to highlight that Otto Aviation has not validated all the claims they have made. The Celera 500l has only taken around 30 test flights since it was seen at Southern California Logistics Airport for the first time. It has done it with an engine different from the one it will be carrying once production starts at Otto Aviation premises. Therefore, the Celera 500l has not achieved the cruise speeds and higher altitudes it was designed for.
The difference with a comparable jet aircraft such as a light jet could be summarized as follows.
Celera 500l vs. Light Jet
A comparable jet aircraft has a specific fuel consumption of about 2 – 3 mpg while the Celera 500l gets 18 – 25 mpg.
Operating costs can reach $2100 per hour in a light jet, while Otto Aviation claims their aircraft stays as low as $328 per hour. This means higher profitability on a per passenger basis.
Jet fuel used versus biodiesel in the Celera 500l.
A spacious cabin of 448 ft3 in the Celera 500l while jets such as the Citation CJ3+ can even get to 400, with a cabin volume of 311 ft3.
59% reduction of induced drag thanks to the design.
Private Aviation: The now and the future
Private aviation has moved from an independent operation to a more air taxi kind of model. With the current fears created by the pandemic, more wealthy people will look for a more private way of air travel. The Celera 500l is ready to disrupt the air taxi market with a cost comparable to any other private jet. This new type of aircraft offers enormous market opportunity, especially if it can be adapted for other applications such as cargo operations, military applications, drone-like activity, and electric or hybrid format. Only the future will tell.
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