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Harbour Air says electric seaplane service still years away

Working on electric air fleet

Harbour Air has taken a significant step in its goal of creating an electric fleet of seaplanes, but it will likely be several years before any of them carry passengers to and from Vancouver.

The company recently installed an electric motor in its prototype airplane, a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver, and is now “working on installing the battery packs and getting the rest of the airframe prepared,” explained Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air Seaplanes

“We’re not seeing any major obstacles in terms of the technology … We anticipate we should be able to fly the thing in the first part of December.”

McDougall, however, isn’t popping the champagne quite yet, recognizing that there are still “quite a few goal posts” ahead.

Harbour Air – which operates up to 300 daily flights out of several B.C. and Washington harbours – is at the forefront of getting Transportation Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority to regulate electric-powered, commercial aircraft.

McDougall said the current electric technology is only appropriate for the shorter flights that Harbour Air offers, such as its popular Nanaimo to Vancouver route.

That said, McDougall said the technology is rapidly developing. “The batteries are evolving,” said McDougall. “By the time we get through the regulatory process, it will allow us decent range and payloads.”

While Harbour Air has purchased carbon offsets for years (becoming the first carbon-neutral airline in North America in 2007), McDougall said its goal is to eliminate emissions all together.

The airline industry is a carbon-intensive form of transportation, with planes amounting to about 4.9 per cent of carbon emissions globally.

Harbour air is working closely with MaginX, a Redmond, Wash.-based technology company that specializes in building electric propulsion systems for aircraft.

?“A ‘magnified’ aircraft like the Beaver or Caravan, that has been retrofitted with our electric propulsion system, will fly for about 100 miles plus reserve,” says MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski. “An aircraft like the Eviation Alice, that has been designed from the start to be all-electric, will fly 650 miles."



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