NASA's electric plane tech is coming in for a late, bumpy landing

May 19, 2023
It features seven motors and propellers on each wing – a distributed propulsion system it's hoped can be applied to smaller planes, including air taxis, Laura Dobberstein reports for The Register.

WASHINGTON - NASA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on Wednesday released an audit of the agency's electrified aircraft propulsion (EAP) flight demonstration projects and found all will likely experience schedule delays and cost overruns. The reports casts doubt on the technology's ability to help the aviation industry reach government-mandated net-zero greenhouse gas emission targets by 2050, Laura Dobberstein reports for The Register. Continue reading original article.

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

19 May 2023 - The report, available here, notes that X-57 electric aircraft testing is experiencing significant cost overruns and a three-year schedule delay. The report says "Specifically, all of NASA’s EAP-related flight demonstration projects have either experienced or show indications of schedule delays and cost overruns. For example, the X-57 was estimated to cost $40 million but has experienced more than $47 million in cost overruns and an almost 3-year schedule delay. Moreover, NASA decided to terminate the project after the Mod II flight demonstration scheduled for late 2023. In addition, the EPFD Project is showing early indications of similar schedule delays and cost increases with the contractor’s probabilistic estimate indicating a 247-day delay to project completion and a $40-million cost overrun. The estimated date for the first magniX flight has also been delayed about a year."

The report says that all EAP-related projects are experiencing challenges from COVID-19 impacts to the supply chain, including raw material shortages, delivery delays, and long-lead times for components. Six of ARMD’s eight EAP-related projects also listed workforce challenges as one of their top concerns, including worker shortages and wage pressure. Other factors affecting NASA’s EAP efforts include a NASA-wide pattern of over-optimism when creating cost and schedule baselines that can be attributed, in part, to a lack of data for past experimental aviation projects. Unstable funding with several projects has also been an issue, with EAP projects receiving less funding than planned both because of congressional funding delays at the beginning of fiscal year 2023 and because ARMD shifted funding to another ARMD project that was running over budget and behind schedule. Finally, an additional challenge for EAP projects is an upcoming relocation of the NASA Electric Aircraft Testbed facility at Glenn Research Center that will result in an estimated 6-month gap in the facility’s ability to support testing.

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Jamie Whitney, Senior Editor
Military + Aerospace Electronics

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