Boeing-backed hybrid electric start-up gets an engine supplier

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One of the world’s biggest airplane-engine manufacturers is betting on a future of electric flight.

Boeing and JetBlue Airways, Zunum said Thursday.

It is a key milestone for the airplane as engines are among the toughest pieces of technology to perfect.

Without an engine “it might as well be a cool freehand drawing,” said Richard Aboulafia, a vice president at aerospace research firm the Teal Group.

Safran is planning to modify a helicopter engine for the 12-seat Zunum plane, which it is calling the ZA10. The plane would run on both batteries and a gasoline-powered turbine engine.

Zunum, which is also backed by Washington state’s Clean Energy Fund, said the first batch of planes will seat 12 passengers and would be available in 2022. The company conducted ground tests this year near Chicago and is planning flight tests in 2019.

JetBlue Ventures, which is backing Zunum, said it hopes the planes could be used for shorter flights, under 1,000 miles.

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