March 26, 2019 6:39 pm
Updated: March 26, 2019 9:57 pm

Harbour Air to switch to battery-powered aircraft

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Harbour Air Seaplanes has announced plans to transform into the world’s first all-electric airline.

The B.C.-based company announced a partnership with magniX that will make it the first seaplane airline to start making the conversion to all-electric planes.

Dubbed the Harbour Air ePlane, a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver will be the first to be converted. The aircraft will be powered by the magni500, a 750-horsepower all-electric motor. This engine would make the ePlane more powerful than the gas-powered de Havilland Beaver by 70 horsepower.

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The planes would be virtually silent except for propeller noise.

“The reality is transportation is going electric, just because its practical. And it’s becoming more practical all the time just based on the advancement of battery technology,” Harbour Air CEO Greg McDougall said.

“Short stage lengths and single-engine aircraft, which don’t require as much energy to fly, so that puts us in a unique position that we can actually take advantage of the technology.”

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The announcement is just the start of the process to converting the fleet.

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“Step one is to have a prototype flying, which will prove the technology and then go through the regulatory process of proving of the safety standard” McDougall said.

Aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia of the U.S.-based Teal Group has doubts about the feasibility of completely battery-powered aircraft.

“It’s an aggressive timeframe, it’s starting to be feasible for very small planes. When it comes to electric power sources it’s really all about the range and the size of the plane,” Aboulafia said.

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“Maybe you have a central turbine that charges (batteries) up and also distributes power directly to propellers or fans or whatever else, that is probably in the 2030s or 2040s but absolute battery-powered flight that’s really a very long ways off if ever – aside from very small planes of course.”

Founded in 1982, Harbour Air began as a service for the forest industry with with two small seaplanes. The airline now has more than 40 aircraft that make up to 300 flights a day to 12 destinations.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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