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Qualicum Beach interested in electric aircraft charging stations

Council wants to jump on environmentally friendly technology
(PQB News file photo)

The Town of Qualicum Beach wants to look at opportunities in establishing a battery charging station for electric planes at the Qualicum Beach Airport.

Council heard a delegation at its regular meeting on Dec. 6 from representatives from Elibrid Aero and Sealand Flight, who discussed the advancements and benefits of sustainable electric flight technology.

With major Canadian airlines now investing in electric planes, Qualicum Beach, the delegation indicated, has an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon earlier and add this component to the Qualicum Beach Airport services. As well, they expect Transport Canada to come up with new regulations and guidelines that would allow electric planes to fly in Canada.

Mike Andrews, a pilot and instructor for Sealand, stationed in Campbell River, said they have acquired a fully electric training plane from Italy, a Pipistrel Velis Electro, which is being used to train pilots in European countries.

Andrews indicated the reasons they are looking at electric planes is because it’s environmentally friendly due to its zero emission, ultra-quiet, easy to maintain and cheaper to purchase than comparable traditional airplane.

“Electric aircraft is the way of the future and it’s here now,” said Andrews, who added by spring of 2024, their fully electric aircraft could be soaring the blue skies of Qualicum Beach. They plan to add two more planes to their fleet for training purposes.

“Just like electric cars, none of these aircrafts can get very far without the availability of chargers,” said Andrews, who said there is an opportunity to establish one in Qualicum Beach.

“Sealand Flight and Elibrid Aero, with the support of the town’s airport managers, believe that Qualicum Beach Airport is an ideal airport to embark on this public electric aircraft charger — one of Canada’s first,” Andrews said. “With a central location, it is a gateway to allowing electric aircraft to reach further, and further distances in communities.”

Andrews requested the town explore the process and opportunities to create Canada’s first electric aircraft charging station. He suggested the airport master plan, which the town is currently drafting, include opportunities for future sustainable aviation projects such as solar, electric, hydrogen and vertiport technology.

To achieve this goal, Andrews indicated they are willing to collaborate with the town on this venture as well as with BC Hydro, who would provide the power. Qualicum Beach Airport will need a three-phase electric power for rapid charging of the electric planes.

Coun. Scott Harrison finds the idea appealing as electric aircrafts are geared mostly for short-term flights.

“Because of our location, it’s so central to all these nodes, it really is in our interest to be an early mover on this,” said Harrison.

Mayor Teunis Westbroek is keen on the proposal as well. He has heard a lot from the public during meetings regarding the about the noise and lead in the fuel and this will help address their concerns.

“This is a welcome opportunity for us to consider,” said Westbroek.

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach Airport to replace aging fuelling system

Elibird Aero founder, Teara Fraser, who also owns Iskwew Airline that serves Qualicum Beach Airport, said there is a great opportunity to make Qualicum Beach a pioneer in clean air transportation.

She suggested they all work together in identifying funding sources and securing them to advance sustainable aviation.

The town is now planning to apply for a grant to the BC Air Access Program for $35,000 to develop an Airport Master Plan for the Qualicum Beach Airport.

Westbroek said the proposals they just heard from the delegation gives Qualicum Beach Airport a new perspective. He considers it an exciting prospect that should be included in the airport master plan.

“It’s not a pipe dream, it’s based on reality,” he said. “It’s worth going. So for us to prepare a master plan to accommodate having phase-three charging, whatever services we need to do to attract those electric planes I think is a real economic opportunity but also for the environment, to have a much better, cleaner industry.”

Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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