A six-passenger de Havilland Beaver operated by Harbour Air Seaplanes will become the test case for the first attempt to convert an existing passenger airline fleet from conventional fossil-fuelled motors to all-electric propulsion. (Photo courtesy MagniX)

Electric floatplanes will change the business of flying across the strait

Harbour Air Seaplanes first in the world to attempt converting fleet to zero-emissions aircraft

A fleet of electric aircraft could eventually be criss-crossing the Strait of Georgia.

Harbour Air Seaplanes, the world’s first carbon-neutral airline, announced Tuesday it plans to convert its fleet of more than 40 aircraft to electric propulsion to become the world’s first emissions-free passenger airline in a joint venture with MagniX, an electric aviation propulsion systems development company in Redmond, Wash.

Greg McDougall, Harbour Air Seaplanes founder and CEO, said the first Harbour Air prototype electric floatplane will start making test flights in November.

“I’m certain we can get the first aircraft up, so that’s as confident as you can be, I guess,” McDougall said. “The reason I say that is that the technology to do it actually exists today and it’s basically a matter of retrofitting that technology to existing technology.”

The test bed for electric commercial flight will be a six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver, a Canadian aircraft design flying since 1947.

Harbour Air’s electric Beaver will have its engine replaced with a much lighter, simpler electric motor and one tonne of battery packs replacing the aircraft’s fuel tanks to give it 30 minutes’ flight range with 30 minutes’ reserve power, more than sufficient to cover all of Harbour Air’s routes.

“Range is a matter of perspective,” said Roei Ganzarski, MagniX CEO. “Are we going to fly from Vancouver to Toronto non-stop? No, but Vancouver to Nanaimo or Vancouver to Victoria non-stop on all-electric is doable today.”

MagniX has tested its motors and battery setups on a test jig, which has logged 1,500 hours’ operation. The Beaver will be the first aircraft to fly a 750-horsepower MagniX propulsion system, which Ganzarski said is the power level planned for Harbour Air’s entire fleet. The Beaver, he said, offers the benefit of being a simple aircraft design that allows relatively easy placement of batteries and other systems without changing the plane’s centre of gravity.

“That’s the beauty of the Beaver … It’s really made to be very simple and it’s basically a flying tank … the only thing right now is that this has never been done before,” Ganzarski said. “There are no electric propulsion systems out there at the scale that we’re building. There are no electric aircraft at the scale that we’re building … with Harbour Air. So that’s the only challenge is that we’re that we’re doing this for the first time.”

McDougall said the prototype will operate as an experimental aircraft to prove the system and gain certification to carry passengers. He hopes to fly passengers aboard electric planes by 2022, albeit with possibly lighter loads to maximize aircraft range.

“We still won’t be able to fly with a full plane, but we will be able to fly with enough people to make it economically viable because the costs are extremely reduced,” McDougall said.

Electric motors burn no fuel, have few moving parts so they require little maintenance, and last far longer than fossil-fuelled motors, “so you’re looking at an entirely different financial model,” McDougall said. “You’ve got a motor on a plane that will go for 10,000 hours versus 3,000 and you probably wouldn’t even … rebuild it. You’d just throw it away and get a new one.”

While other companies, including major aircraft manufacturers, are focused on developing everything from small vertical take-off and landing flying commuter vehicles to full-size long-range airliners, none are attempting retrofitting an existing fleet to all-electric propulsion, he said.

“We’re doing the most boring, unsexy part of aviation … It’s the same aircraft that the regulatory authorities know. It’s the same aircraft that the airlines know. It’s the same aircraft the passengers know. So, we’re trying to keep things as simple as possible because simplicity is how you drive a revolution,” Ganzarski said.

McDougall said response to the announcement has been “incredibly positive,” but he also expects education will be needed to get some passengers comfortable with electrically powered aircraft.

He went on to say MagniX is providing the test system for free and the actual cost of the systems will be worked in on a future business plan, but he foresees no insurmountable technical hurdles to a successful outcome of the program.

“As a company, we’re super excited to be a part of continuing the Canadian legacy of being innovative in aviation,” McDougall said. “That’s something we’re super proud of and the company’s really excited about it and it seems to be positive in every way.”



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Roei Ganzarski, MagniX CEO, has pinpointed Harbour Air Seaplanes as the perfect fit for his company’s electric aircraft propulsion systems. (Photo courtesy MagniX)

Just Posted

Parksville wants consultant to examine feasibility of rec centre

Strong demand from residents for a multi-sport facility

Developers withdraw rezoning application for huge Parksville waterfront plan

IAG to create new draft after processing public feedback

Parksville youngsters design problem-solving robot

Lego robotics team gearing up for gold in Victoria competition

Part Three: 10 questions with a Qualicum Beach historian

Local guide shares stories of town’s foundations

‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

Trudeau says he also wore makeup while performing a version of a Harry Belafonte song

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

B.C. bus crash survivor petitions feds to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

Most Read