Source: Harbour Air
Source: Harbour Air

A Gold Coast-based engineering firm has announced a partnership with a Canadian seaplane company to create what is through to be the world’s first all-electric airline.

The first flights are slated to begin in 2021, assuming all regulatory approvals are passed, the companies announced in a press release on Tuesday.

The Canadian company, known as Harbour Airlines, is taking the first step on its journey to zero emissions flight by converting a small 6-seater passenger plane, removing its kerosene engine in exchange for an electric motor and li-ion battery packs.

Harbour Air has inked a deal with MagniX – an Australian company that has offices on the Gold Coast and Seattle, which has developed an electric propulsion system – to transition its commercial fleet to electric.

The first aircraft to be converted will be the Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, which MagniX will equip with its magni500, a 750 horsepower (HP) all-electric motor.

“Harbour Air first demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by becoming the first fully carbon-neutral airline in North America in 2007, through the purchase of carbon offsets,” said Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air Seaplanes in a note.

“Through our commitment to making a positive impact on people’s lives, the communities where we operate and the environment, we are once again pushing the boundaries of aviation by becoming the first aircraft to be powered by electric propulsion.

“We are excited to bring commercial electric aviation to the Pacific Northwest, turning our seaplanes into ePlanes.”

If the project is successful, the partnership will create the world’s first all-electric commercial seaplane fleet.

With the first test slated for November 2019, the deal also has the potential to have a very positive impact  – it is estimated that 12 per cent of all carbon emissions in the US, and 4.9 per cent globally, are created by the aviation sector.

It will also lend considerable weight to the argument that commercial medium-haul flight can transition to electric – Harbour Airlines already operates 30,000 flights ferrying half a million passengers each year on 12 routes between Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria and other destinations in these areas.

“In 2018, 75 percent of worldwide airline flights were 1,000 miles or less in range. With magniX’s new propulsion systems coupled with emerging battery capabilities, we see tremendous potential for electric aviation to transform this heavily trafficked ‘middle mile’ range,” said Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX and ex-Boeing employee in a note.

“We’re excited to partner with Harbour Air, a forward thinking, like-minded company that is dedicated to bringing environmentally conscious, cost effective air-transport solutions to the West Coast of North America. This partnership will set the standard for the future of commercial aviation operators.”

Harbor Air Founder and CEO Greg McDougall says his company is North America’s largest seaplane airline, and the first airline to become carbon neutral in 2007.

The project is similar to other electric aircraft under development, including Eviation who intend to debut its 9-seater electric airplane, Alice, at the Paris Air Show in June this year, and Ampaire, who are retrofitting a Cessna for Hawaiian airline Mokulele.

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