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CAE to convert fleet to electric planes, and school future pilots in green aircraft

Visitors look at a model of the Wisk Aero autonomous aircraft, at the Farnborough Air Show fair in Farnborough, England, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Some 1191 exhibitors from around the world show their newest developments in Future Flight, Space, Defence, Innovation, Sustainability and Workforce from July 18th until July 22, 2022.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali). AP

As temperatures notched record highs in Britain, CAE Inc. unveiled plans at a trade exhibition there to train future pilots in electric planes amid mounting concerns about global warming.

The Montreal-based builder of flight and training simulators said Tuesday it aims to convert two-thirds of its fleet of 200 Piper training aircraft to battery-powered vehicles.

It also intends to bring an electric variant of the plane to market and launch a curriculum for new pilots to train on the green aircraft.

Read more: U.K. records its highest-ever temperature as extreme heat sizzles Europe

Héèene Gagnon, CAE’s head of sustainable development, said in a phone interview the company will be the first to operate test planes, which will use an electric motor and battery system.

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“This means we have to develop the whole curriculum of how we train on an electric plane,” she said.

Gagnon declined to pinpoint a timeline for conversion of the four-seat Piper Archer planes, noting that technological and regulatory details need to be worked out.

“It’s a few years from now,” she said. “Is it one year, three years, five years? We are in that range, it’s not in a lot of time. We are starting now. We’ll see a difference quite quickly.”

Read more: Transport Canada introduces new medium and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicle incentive

The announcement alongside Florida-based Piper Aircraft at the Farnborough Airshow in the United Kingdom comes amid record heat in England, and as discussions around greenhouse gas emissions and carbon neutrality monopolized attention among major industry players at the event that was last held in 2018.

Federal Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who was on hand at the conference, said Monday that he hoped to make development of green technologies a key part of promoting Canada’s aerospace sector.

“When you stand next to a runway and it’s 40.2 C, trust me, it’s on everyone’s mind that we need to do more,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Piper Aircraft has about 28,000 planes in service across the globe, he noted.

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“Canada can be the green supplier of choice to the aviation industry.”

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