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Aeronautic community taking notice of 'mystery aircraft'

By RENE RAY DE LA CRUZ | Daily Press, Victorville, Calif. | Published: June 15, 2019

VICTORVILLE, Calif. (Tribune News Service) —  Many have called the bullet-shaped Otto Aviation Celera 500L a "mystery aircraft" that has the potential to disrupt the aerospace marketplace.

Last month, NASA research pilot and photographer Scott J. Howe flew over Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville and snapped photos of the Celera 500L doing high-speed taxi tests.

Howe's photos posted to Instagram grabbed the attention of the aeronautic community, including The Drive magazine, which reported that the taxi tests could be an indication the Celera 500L is one step closer to its first flight.

Howe is based out of NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. He joined the flight operations staff in 2014 following an 18-year career including active duty and military support contract experience, NASA reported.

"Beyond what we can see, there's still limited information about the aircraft's specifications or even its manufacturer, Otto Aviation Group, which has been operating virtually in secret on this project for around a decade," The Drive said.

In April, the City of Victorville approved a lease agreement with Otto Aviation, a company that performs flight research and testing on experimental aircraft, the Daily Press reported.

Exquadrum President Eric Schmidt, whose aerospace engineering firm is based next to the Otto Aviation facility, told the Daily Press that many experts in the field believe the experimental aircraft may be ultra fuel efficient and may also revolutionize commercial air transportation.

The aircraft's patent declared fuel efficiency of the Celera 500L is up to 10 times better than those of comparable light passenger aircraft with altitude ceilings reaching up to 65,000 feet as opposed to around 30,000 feet usually seen for this type of plane, The Drive said.

"Based on the photos, the propulsion system looks disproportionately small to the size of the aircraft," Schmidt said. "It has a 500 horsepower motor, but the propeller looks really small."

During Sen. Scott Wilk's visit to SCLA in 2017, the Daily Press inadvertently captured photos of a crew working on the Celera 500L.

In the same year, The Drive noted the aircraft had overhauled its wing structure by adding winglets at the tips.

Winglets are designed to reduce turbulence at the tip of the airplane's wings. Other changes noted include a new propeller, an aerodynamic spinner and combined air intakes and exhausts.

Many have also speculated Celera 500L's purpose and type, with some believing it could be used for commercial, military or private use.

But the patent design, submitted by William M. Otto, hints at commercial use, with the plane's design featuring windows and an emergency exit normally found on a passenger aircraft.

"Clearly, there are compelling reasons for wanting an air transportation system that is economically superior to our current air transportation system in acquisition, operation and maintenance costs," the patent said. "To be a viable competitor, the system should have true origin to true destination speeds that significantly exceed current system speeds."

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