ABOVE: The EL-2 Goldfinch reached an altitude of 6,500ft during the flight test campaign

US aircraft developer Electra has performed the first piloted test flights of its blown-lift hybrid-electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) demonstrator, proving the aircraft is capable of meetings its design objective of operating from spaces shorter than 300ft.

The EL-2 Golfinch demonstrator is a high-wing, T-tailed design, using eight electric motors (four mounted under each fixed wing) to significantly increase lift. Its manufacturers state it is designed to operate from ‘soccer field-sized spaces with the simplicity of a fixed-wing aircraft’. During the initial flight test campaign (which took place in April and May 2024 at two airports in Virginia), the aircraft took off in less than 170ft and landed in under 114ft ground roll, flying as slowly as 25kts on takeoff and landing.

“The aircraft handling at low speeds has been exceptional and is matching our analysis well, building confidence in the predicted capability of the nine-passenger product design,” explained Electra Vice President and General Manager JP Stewart. “We’ll continue to develop our technologies, including the ‘thrust-by-wire flight control system to allow us to fly even slower on approach and further improve the STOL takeoff and landing performance in the ongoing test campaign”.

Electra adds that data and insights gained from the demonstrator flight test programme will inform the design of the nine-passenger commercial eSTOL aircraft, capable of cruising at up to 200mph, with entry into service (under FAA Part 23 regulations) targeted for 2028.