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Zunum JetSuite airplane
An artist’s conception shows Zunum Aero’s hybrid-electric airplane in JetSuite’s livery. (Zunum Aero Illustration)

Zunum Aero says its first hybrid-to-electric airplanes will wear the colors of JetSuite, a private aviation company that’s a partner of JetBlue Airways.

Kirkland, Wash.-based Zunum Aero, which has financial backing from JetBlue Technology Ventures as well as Boeing HorizonX and the State of Washington Clean Energy Fund, aims to start flight tests in 2019 and deliver its first regional-class plane in 2022.

Eventually, California-based JetSuite plans to add 100 of Zunum’s planes to its fleet, the two companies said today in a news release.

“JetSuite, with its tradition of shifting paradigms in aviation, is an ideal partner for us in this launch collaboration,” Zunum Aero CEO Ashish Kumar said. “We have a shared vision for fundamentally transforming and improving the way that people live and travel.”

Alex Wilcox, founder and CEO of JetSuite and its JetSuiteX subsidiary, had similar compliments for Zunum.

“We share Zunum’s vision for hybrid-to-electric aviation,” Wilcox, who was a founding executive of JetBlue, said in today’s release. “With this partnership, we expect to bring more efficient and environmentally friendly aviation solutions to our private and semi-private jet customers.”

Zunum Aero is working on a hybrid-electric aircraft propulsion system that’s expected to transition to all-electric once battery technology makes it possible. The system will be optimized to fly distances of up to 1,000 miles and make use of more than 5,000 underutilized regional airports in the U.S.

The first Zunum regional-class aircraft are being designed to seat up to 12 people. The company expects the planes to reduce the cost and time required to get to regional destinations.

For example, Zunum says a Seattle-to-Whistler flight could cost $79 and take only an hour and a half in door-to-door travel time. Seattle-to-Portland could take a couple of hours door-to-door, based on the use of regional airports, Zunum says.

JetSuite offers a WiFi-equipped fleet of light jets for membership-based charter services. JetSuiteX sells seats on scheduled flights to a range of cities in California and Nevada, with pop-up flights to other destinations such as the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Logan Jones, managing director at Boeing HorizonX, said he was looking forward to seeing the impact of the partnership announced today. “In short order, Zunum and JetSuite will prove out a model that is incredibly innovative,” Jones said.

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