Experimental electric-powered aircraft are nothing new, with one such aircraft crashing while giving demonstration flights to politicians in Norway, discouraging the adoption of the technology for European commercial flights.
However, even though the experimental Alpha Electro G2 model owned by the state-owned Avinor crashed into a lake with two members of the Norwegian government, the incident in 2019 did not deter the rest of the competition. Three years later, an American company called Harbour Air succeeded against the De Havilland Beaver prototype in demonstrating the viability of electric-powered aircraft, at least for short-haul flights.
In this case it was a flight lasting only 24 minutes, covering a distance of 72 km between Fraser River and Patricia Bay airports near the city of Vancouver. According to statements given by the pilots, the flight was accomplished without any battery range jitters:
“I am pleased to report that this historic flight on ePlane went exactly as planned,” said Kory Paul, Harbour Air’s vice president of flight operations and one of the company’s test pilots. “Our team, as well as the team at magniX and Transport Canada closely monitor the aircraft’s performance, and today’s flight further proved the safety and reliability of what we have built.”
Harbour Air is the largest seaplane fleet airline in North America and claims to carry about half a million passengers with 30,000 commercial flights each year. In 2019, the company is committed to becoming the world’s first airline with a fully electrified fleet of aircraft, a bold vision that involves upgrading its fleet of six-seat seaplanes by installing electric propulsion systems.
If the project launched in the US proves a success, ePlane flights are expected to become available to other airlines, including in Europe, offering a less expensive and clean solution, especially for short-haul travel.