A Prescott Regional Airport-based prototype aircraft under development by Israeli company Eviation was damaged by a fire that ignited during a test on Jan. 22.
Known as “Alice,” the test vehicle is the model for what the company says will become an all-electric, nine-passenger commuter plane with a range of more than 600 miles, a step toward reducing the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Leland Moreno-Hilburn, U.S. operations manager for the U.S. subsidiary of Eviation, said the company remains undeterred despite the “extensive” damage caused by the fire.
“This, while an unfortunate incident for the community, does not alter our program or our timeline,” he said.
He said the exact cause was not yet known, but when an electric propulsion system is being tested, “there’s always the potential” for something like this to happen, though it rarely does.
Prescott Fire Department personnel were on scene for the test as a precaution and quickly extinguished the fire, according to a City of Prescott news release. Airport operations were back to normal about two and a half hours later, and no commercial flights were affected.
Robin Sobotta, airport director, said one person was injured, and had been treated and released from a local hospital.
She said after the fire started, people in the passenger terminal and nearby buildings were advised to leave the area. “It was not a mandatory evacuation, but airport staff informed people that they might want to clear the area,” she said.
Moreno-Hilburn said most of Eviation’s core team of staff and suppliers had come to Prescott for the test, and by the following week were “assessing the restoration, salvage, whatever the case may be” for the test vehicle.
The company has other testing methods available for the aircraft in development, so it hasn’t changed its goal of FAA certification by late 2021 or early 2022, he said.
Alice was unveiled last June at the Paris Air Show by Eviation, with Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli and City Manager Michael Lamar on hand.
In August the company officially announced Prescott as its U.S. headquarters, having been drawn in part by the ability to partner with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Yavapai College. At the end of last year, Time magazine listed Alice as one of the best inventions of 2019.