Eviation’s all-electric Alice quietly took to the air for its first test flight.

TEST PILOT STEVE CRANE flew the nine-passenger aircraft, powered by two 640-kilowatt electric motors, from Grant County International Airport in Washington.

Alice flew for eight minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 3,500 feet before landing safely back at the airport. A reporter noted, “When the two motors powered up they sounded like electric grass trimmers. And when the plane flew overhead, the noise was more like a hum than a roar.”

Steve Crane explained that the relatively short flight was intended to be the first in a series of “baby steps” for the test programme. “Today was just about the initial envelope,” he told reporters. “For future tests, we’ll expand that envelope.”

“What we have just done is made aviation history,” Gregory Davis, Eviation’s president and CEO, said after the flight.

The Alice aircraft — whose name was inspired by the book “Alice in Wonderland” and the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit” — will come in different variants for commuter, cargo and executive flights. Davis said the initial goal is to build a plane with a maximum range of 200 to 300 nautical miles. According to Eviation’s stats, Alice’s maximum useful load would be 2,500 to 2,600 pounds, and its maximum operating speed would be 260 knots (300 mph).

Davis acknowledged that the design specifications and capabilities of the production version of the plane may be something of a moving target, due to Eviation’s dependence on improvements in battery technology. “It’s going to be carbon fibre, it’s going to be fly-by-wire, it’s going to be electric — so in that respect, it’s the same plane,” Davis said. “As far as the actual design of the aircraft, I think everything’s going to be evolved.”