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There’s an old pilot adage that says that every approach should be flown to a go-around — an aborted landing — until you’re sure you can get to the runway safely. In other words, plan for things to not go as planned.

Yet, as a generation of commercial aircraft powered by electricity, hydrogen or hybrid technology come to the fore, the energy capability required to get from point A to point B is important, but having energy reserves on board needed for when things don’t go as planned are paramount to enable them to fly alongside their fossil-fuel burning counterparts.

Read: De Havilland and the Canadian pursuit of a hybrid-electric turboprop

“The reserve calculation is going to be the recipe for the success of the aircraft and the technology that’s on that aircraft,” said Todd Young, De Havilland Aircraft of Canada’s retired chief operating officer who is heading up the development of a hybrid-electric propulsion test program that aims to cut the fuel consumption of a traditional aircraft by by to 30%.

For electric aircraft, battery capacity and health dictates the ultimate range of the aircraft in a commercial environment. Both fossil fuel and new propulsion aircraft are bound to the same reality — finite onboard energy — that has to be shared with the safety margin built into flight planning. That eats away at the useful range of the aircraft and the planned-for necessity of aborting a landing, climbing again and flying somewhere else to arrive safely.

“Even through the demonstrator project we’re working on, we’re learning more and more about how that recipe is influenced or not influenced based on what you can and can’t do,” said Young in a recent interview with The Air Current.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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