The Odd Looking New Celera 500l Corporate Plane Promises Incredible Performance, but Will It Deliver?

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Regardless of what you think of the Otto Celera 500L’s design and shape, this is one eye-catching plane. Its unusual aerodynamics ensure this because they produced a commercial aircraft that’s not quite like any other on the market today.

If the Celera 500L from Otto Aviation looks like anything, it might most closely be said to resemble a slightly deformed bullet or perhaps an egg with wings. The compact plane’s combination of the rounded, elongated body, turboprops, and slim glider-like wings work together to make the 500L highly unique.

This applies not just in its external aspects but also in how it performs in the skies, at least according to its manufacturer, southern California startup Otto Aviation.

The 500L is essentially a mid-wing monoplane with just one five-blade propeller at its tail end in a pusher configuration. Laminar flow over its wings, fuselage and other parts of its body operates with an extremely reduced drag that’s claimed to be 59% lower than that of competitor planes in its size range.

As for the engine propelling all of these other aspects forward through the skies, it’s an individual RED A03 turbocharged V12 four-stroke diesel-powered aircraft model with 500 hp of power. It also operates as two six-cylinder engines for added redundancy and safety.

Despite the above specs, the idea of a single pushing propeller and one 12-cylinder 500 hp engine might seem a bit weak for a plane designed to luxuriously seat 6 passengers plus cabin crew.

According to its makers, however, this isn’t at all the case in terms of overall performance: Because of how its extremely low-drag exterior design combines with the plane’s engine specs, the 500L is capable of reaching respectable speeds of over 420 knots, or 460 miles, per hour (just under 800 km per hour). It also has a maximum range of 4,500 nautical miles.

Even more impressively, it can achieve these speeds and range while only costing $328 per hour to operate with fuel use included. Most similarly sized competitor planes with similar ranges and speeds cost several times more per hour of flight at $2,100.

The Celera also delivers an incredible fuel economy of 18 to 25 miles per gallon. This too is far lower than the two to three miles per gallon of most competitor planes. The Celera 500L’s fuel economy is much closer to that of a large SUV’s than a conventional corporate jet’s.

As William Otto Jr., the CEO of Otto Aviation, affirms, “This gets us four to five times the efficiency of other turboprop aircraft, and seven to eight times the efficiency of jet aircraft,”

The 500L is comfortable too. Its interior is more than spacious enough to neatly house several people with plenty of legroom and the plane’s cabin also has ample space for the pilots’ comfort. Large cockpit windows contribute to an open feeling by giving wide visibility for sky gazing.

The Celera 500L may still be a prototype plane, but it already has many designs and test history. This aircraft was first flown back in 2018 and has completed over 50 test flights since then.

It’s worth mentioning however that the new aircraft has never gone faster than 251 miles per hour on any of these flights. So at least for now, its 460-mile cruising speed is just a theoretical spec instead of a proven performance metric.

It was the current Otto CEO’s father, William Otto Sr., who first birthed the idea of the Celera. The aerospace veteran and former missile designer started by thinking of this aircraft as a sort of thought experiment on just what kind of plane design could lead to enormously cheaper running costs than what’s currently available for long-haul planes in the corporate jet market.

After examining studies about torpedoes that he had done, Otto Sr. decided that their shape and propeller configuration could also work in an airplane. This design concept was specifically designed to dramatically increase the laminar flow of air over the body of the plane with minimal resistance.

This low-turbulence airflow mechanism is what does the most to enable the Celera 500L’s incredibly cheap flight/fuel costs and enormous range at high speeds.

Another interesting aspect of the Celera’s mechanical performance is the fact that it operates on a diesel engine. This too is possible mainly because the plane’s laminar flow creates such high airflow efficiency. According to Otto Jr., future editions of the 500L will possibly be powered by hydrogen fuel cell engines or even by entirely electric motors for minimal carbon emissions.

While Otto has some reservations about the Celera 500L’s appearance appealing to business executives long since used to the sleeker bodies of most modern corporate jets, he remains optimistic.

The plane will start selling to private customers at an expected starting price tag of $5 million when it finally emerges for final approval for its commercial life.

Current mid and long-range aircraft models commonly used for corporate air charter services could get some stiff competition from the Celera 500L if its fuel economy and range specs fully function after final commercial market approval. For the time being though, companies like FlexAir Aviation and other corporate jet charter services have no trouble delivering efficient luxury service with their normal fleet of executive jets.

Photo Credit: Brad Adkins/Otto Aviation