- Zunum Aero announced that JetSuite will be the electric plane maker’s launch customer.
- JetSuite will take up to 100 planes from Zunum with delivery expected to start in 2022.
- Zunum is backed by JetBlue Technology Ventures and Boeing HorizonX venture capital funds.
- Zunum Aero wants its electric planes to make air travel cheaper, quicker, and more convenient for small communities around the US.
Zunum Aero announced on Monday that jet charter company JetSuite will become its launch customer.
“We are thrilled to announce that JetSuite is going to be our launch customer,” Zunum Aero CEO Ashish Kumar told us in an interview.
Zunum, the electric plane startup backed by JetBlue Technology Ventures and Boeing HorizonX, revealed that JetSuite will take up to 100 planes with deliveries expected to commence in 2022. The financial terms of the deal have not been released.
The planes are expected to be used for JetSuite’s private jet charter business as well as its JetSuiteX regional airline.
JetSuite's operations in smaller, regional airports falls in line with Zunum's commitment to drastically cutting door-to-door trip times by avoiding large hubs, Kumar said.
Over the past few decades, major US airlines built a complex hub-and-spoke operation that is optimized for moving massive numbers of people through its major airports using larger aircraft. A consequence of this is that many smaller communities have found itself underserved with direct flights, forcing people to drive long distances to catch a flight in nearby cities.
"We see electric as a way to level the playing field," Kumar said. "By having smaller aircraft fly economically against airliners, we can really blow open the air system to every community."
"We can offer higher frequency of flights to airfields closer to your home or to your final destination without having to deal with baggage belts and TSA lines," the Zunum CEO added.
Zunum's planes are expected to debut with a hybrid-electric drive system before moving to a fully-electric layout as battery technology improves.
The planes will have room for up to 12 passengers and are optimized for flights up to 1,000 miles. The Kirkland, Washington-based startup also claims its planes will be able to cruise at speeds up to 340 mph and require just 2,200 feet of runway to take off.
According to Kumar, his company is on track to begin flight testing of its innovative drive system on existing airframes in 2019 with certification of the technology expected in 2021 or early 2022. The full airframe with the hybrid electric drive system won't fly until 2020 or 2021.
JetSuite was founded by former JetBlue executive Alex Wilcox. Since 2016, both JetBlue and Qatar Airways have invested in the company's JetSuiteX regional service.