A B.C. seaplane carrier is set to make history next month, as it tests the world’s first fully-electric commercial aircraft.
Harbour Air will test the seaplane, a De Havilland Beaver retrofitted with a magniX electric motor, on Wednesday, Dec. 11 — subject to weather.
And the company’s founder and CEO will be at the stick for the historic flight.
“I’ll be the only one aboard it. The flight permit actually includes one test pilot and that’s it,” said Greg McDougall.
“I’m a Tesla owner and I was so impressed with the technology, and I kind of thought, well, you know, why why can’t we put this in an aircraft?”
Harbour Air announced the transition to electric aircraft last spring, which will see aircraft refitted with 750-horsepower all-electric Magni500 propulsion systems.
McDougall said Harbour Air’s operations — which involve mostly short-distance flights — are ideally suited to electric power.
“Most of our routes are within the range of technology that exists today,” said McDougall.
“Having said that, the battery technology is increasing all the time and we know while we’re going through the regulatory process of getting this all approved, the battery technology will improve to the point where there will be a lot more economically viable at the end.”
The company says the first test flight will be about 10 minutes long, and will focus on how the new motor works with the existing airframe.
The company hopes the introduction of the electric technology will allow it to become carbon neutral.
It will also come with significant savings, both in terms of fuel and in terms of aircraft maintenance.
McDougall said the new motors will require an overhaul after about 10,000 hours, compared to current combustion engines that need an overhaul after about 2,500 hours.
“We’re estimating … that there’s probably a couple of million dollars in savings over that 10,000 hours per aircraft,” he said.
McDougall said Harbour Air hopes to be able to roll out electric seaplanes for commercial use in about two years.