Alex Wilcox

Alex Wilcox

JetSuite Inc. plans to get the first “hybrid-to-electric” aircraft from Zunum Aero when it’s ready for takeoff in 2022.

The Irvine-based charter and scheduled charter airline—JetSuite calls it “private” and “semi-private”—has ordered a plane from the Kirkland, Wash., start-up, with long-term projections calling for it to buy up to 100 aircraft.

“We want to be as efficient as we possibly can,” said JetSuite founder and Chief Executive Alex Wilcox. “These are more efficient economically and environmentally.”

The aircraft Zunum is developing—flight-testing is tentatively set to begin next year—are expected to use less fuel with comparable performance on cruising speed and range.

The lower carbon costs and noise levels, and viability on runways as short as 2,200 feet, suggest planes can fly “near residential communities” to “5,000 under-utilized airports in the U.S.,” reducing travel time, the companies said.

The market is short haul jaunts of 1,000 miles or less—a staple of JetSuite’s work and of its JetSuiteX unit, which offers some niceties of charter flying to passengers who might otherwise fly commercial.

Costs are comparable too, Wilcox said, including operational efficiency.

“Capital cost is higher but we’ll more than pay for the difference on savings.”

JetSuite charter flights are under 10 passengers; JetSuiteX scheduled charters use 30-seat planes. These plans cost between $9 million and $19 million when new, Wilcox said.

Zunum plans a 6- to 12-seat configuration for carriers and a 30-seat version to compete with the larger planes.

JetBlue Airways Corp. in Long Island City, N.Y. is an investor in JetSuite and, via its JetBlue Technology Ventures incubator in Silicon Valley, in Zunum, which is also backed by Boeing’s innovation arm, Boeing HorizonX, and the State of Washington Clean Energy Fund.

JetSuite plans to move its headquarters to Texas this year.