Harbour Air

Harbour Air announces December 11 ePlane test flight

A Harbour Air Beaver being fitted with its magni500 propulsion system in Vancouver (photo: Harbour Air).

Canadian seaplane airline Harbour Air says it plans the world’s first flight of an electric commercial aircraft on December 11. Success would lead Harbour Air to create the world’s first all-electric seaplane fleet.

“Our incredible maintenance team along with our partners have reached the next level of critical milestones,” the company said as it announced the planned flight.

Harbour Air’s Beaver is being fitted with a 750 horsepower all-electric magni500 propulsion system at a company hangar in Vancouver.

“I’ve been convinced for some period of time that the future of transportation in general anc certainly aviation is electrified,” said Greg McDougall, Harbour Air Chief Executive Officer in a company video. McDougall announced he will be the test pilot for the initial

“When this thing flies, it’ll be the first time on Earth that this happens,” said Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of magnix which is building the electric engine. “How could you not be excited about that?”

Electric planes have the potential to revolutionize air travel, particularly when it comes to small planes flying short distances. The aviation industry is facing intense pressure to limit carbon emissions any way it can.

This week, Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport announced it would convert a ferry that travels the short distance from Toronto to the airport to electric propulsion. It would be the first lithium-ion powered ferry service in Canada.

“The retrofitting of the Marilyn Bell I to electric power clearly demonstrates how we can build a clean and efficient transportation system, create good jobs and protect the environment,” said Marc Garneau, Canada’s Minister of Transport.

The move is expected to reduce the airport’s greenhouse gas emissions by 530 tonnes a year.

E-flights do have their detractors. Reporter Andreas Speth recently quoted Airbus Chief Technology Officer Grazia Vittadini as saying, “We would need a battery 30x stronger than what we have to fly an A320 with half the payload over 1/5th of the distance.”

The historic flight will be dependent on the weather and receiving necessary approvals from Transport Canada. It will take place at the company’s Richmond base on the south side of Vancouver International Airport.

Harbour Air already bills itself as a carbon-neutral airline, offsetting emissions produced by its flights, maintenance operations, even by its employees when they drive to work.

Harbour Air is one of the largest float plane companies in the world, offering numerous flights between the mainland and Vancouver Island, and as far afield as Seattle, Washington. If all goes according to plan, the airline hopes to convert to an all-electric fleet.

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