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The Future

New ‘bullet plane’ aims to make private flights affordable

Otto Aviation says the hourly cost of flying the new Celera 500L is about six times cheaper than conventional aircraft.

Otto Aviation

Celera 500L

Key Takeaways
  • The unusual shape of Otto Aviation's Celera 500L was designed to maximize laminar flow.
  • Laminar flow is the smooth flow of air over an aircraft's wings, and optimizing laminar flow can make aircraft incredibly efficient.
  • The plane can hold up to six passengers, and is expected to hit commercial markets around 2025.

An American aviation company claims to have designed an ultra-efficient plane that could someday make the cost of private flights comparable to flying commercial.

Otto Aviation says it’s completed 31 successful test flights of its new Celera 500L, a.k.a the “bullet plane.” According to the company, the plane features seats for six passengers, a 4,500-nautical-mile range and a top cruise speed of 460 miles per hour. That means it could fly nonstop from New York City to Los Angeles in about the same time as a conventional private aircraft.

But most notable is the low flying cost of $328 per hour. Compare that to the $1,300 to $3,000 hourly cost you and several friends would currently pay to charter a private jet.

How is the price so low?

It’s mainly because of the plane’s unusual shape. The cylindrical fuselage is especially aerodynamic because it maximizes laminar flow. Laminar flow occurs when air flows smoothly over an aircraft’s wings, which reduces drag and boosts fuel efficiency.

Celera 500LOtto Aviation

Otto says the Celera 500L requires about one-eighth the fuel of a conventional jet.

“The design of the Celera fuselage takes advantage of an optimum length-to-width ratio to maximize laminar flow,” Otto Aviation wrote on its website, adding that the design results in a 59-percent reduction in drag compared to similarly sized aircraft. “These benefits will not scale for large jet transports and are therefore well suited for an aircraft like the Celera.”

Other specs include:

  • Glide range of 125 miles at 30,000 feet, which is roughly three times better than conventional aircraft.
  • Fuel efficiency levels that are 30 percent better than FAA and ICAO target emissions standards for aircraft entering service after 2031.
  • Liquid-cooled V12 engine, twin 6-cylinder bank, capable of independent operation with mutually independent critical engine sub-systems for each bank.

Celera 500LOtto Aviation

“We believe the Celera 500L is the biggest thing to happen to both the aviation and travel industries in 50 years,” William Otto Sr., the Chairman and Chief Scientist of Otto Aviation, said in a statement. “Beyond using our aircraft for passenger travel, it can also be used for cargo operations and military applications. Since the results from our prototype test flights have been so promising, we’re ready to bring the Celera 500L to market.”

The company hopes to deliver the Celera 500L to market around 2025, pending FAA certification. If successful, manufacturers like Otto Aviation, Transcend Air, and Airbus could usher in the era of air taxis, where people hail aircraft like they do taxis or Ubers. Paris, for example, was planning to have flying taxis in time for the 2024 Olympic Games, though it’s unclear whether the pandemic will affect the project.

Celera 500LOtto Aviation

As far as how COVID-19 has affected the launch of the bullet plane?

“We didn’t anticipate Covid-19,” Otto told CNN. “But there are enhanced market opportunities in being able to afford to fly with only those you choose to. Being able to avoid crowded airports and lines is another big benefit. […] In many cases, individuals and families will be able to charter the Celera 500L at prices comparable to commercial airfares, but with the convenience of private aviation.”

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