Harbor Air seeks to certify its all-electric commercial aircraft
North America’s largest seaplane airline, Harbor Air, has announced a partnership with magniX and H55 to produce what it calls “the world’s first certified all-electric commercial aircraft.” The new partnership will continue to develop and certify its Beaver Electric Commuter Airplane (eBeaver) through a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) program in Canada.
Harbor Air began operations in 1982 with two small seaplanes as a service for the BC forestry industry and is now the largest seaplane airline in North America. With a fleet of over 40 aircraft, the company now operates up to 300 daily scheduled flights, including scenic tours and private charter flights to the West Coast of Canada and the United States.
In 2019, Harbor Air first partnered with electric propulsion systems maker magniX to develop the eBeaver, an electrified version of its six-passenger de Havilland Beaver DHC-2, powered by a magni500 propulsion system from 750 horsepower (560 kW). Its maiden flight turned out to be successful, thus kicking off Harbor Air’s quest to become the first fully carbon neutral airline.
With the company’s recent announcement, Harbor Air has added a third to the collaboration, to move closer to electrifying its entire airline fleet.
Harbor Air certifies the world’s first electric aircraft
In a recent announcement Canadian airline, Harbor Air and magniX will continue their development of the eBeaver electric aircraft with the help of H55, experts in modular battery storage and certified battery management systems for aviation. André Borschberg, Executive Chairman of H55, shared his thoughts on the partnership:
We were drawn to Harbor Air and magniX’s vision, pioneering spirit and commitment to making aviation clean. The collaboration will take advantage of our synergies and complementarities. We all understand that the road to electric aviation is complicated. But at the same time, by joining forces, our combined experience will lead to faster certification. And this in turn will offer a fast and safe way to reach the market and popularize electric aviation.
Joining the team, H55 will provide its modular battery technology to extend both the eBeaver’s balance-to-weight ratio and its travel endurance. According to the press release, the H55’s battery modules have one of the highest energy densities on the market and will provide the entire energy storage system and redundant battery monitoring at the cell level for the eBeaver plane.
Future-oriented electric planes
Combined with magniX’s electric propulsion technology, Harbor Air is poised to transform its entire fleet from all-electric seaplanes. Companies are now taking the next steps by working with Transport Canada to ensure that these installed components are certified through an STC program to make their status official for commercial use. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, said:
This partnership is another step forward in our vision to make all-electric, zero-emission aircraft a reality. With Harbor Air in the lead on becoming a fully electric airline, the battery technology of the H55, and the flight-proven propulsion of magniX, we envision an electrifying future.
Since the aforementioned flight in 2019, Harbor Air and magniX have performed additional flight tests on the eBeaver electric aircraft to measure and collect as much relevant data as possible. This includes factors such as cruising performance, take-off thrust efficiency, electromagnetic interference (EMI), battery management software logic, and even noise levels.
Going forward, the three companies plan to focus on optimizing the design of the Electric Propulsion Unit (EPU) and Energy Storage System (ESS) based on continuous flight tests. They hope to achieve certification to begin the transition of Harbor Air’s all-electric fleet by 2022.
Electric planes – what a time to be alive. It is an interesting and exciting prospect in that Harbor Air calls this air fleet electrification the third era of aviation. Although the eBeaver carries limited passengers as a “puddle jumper,” Harbor Air uses it as a take-off point to electrify its entire lineup of over 40 aircraft.
It’s not the only electric aircraft in development Electrek has covered either. As electric powertrain and energy-dense battery cell technologies continue to improve, many of us will see electric airplanes of some magnitude run steadily over the course of our lifetimes. It’s an exciting premise.
These are small steps, but they are progressing as much as they are and will soon leave no carbon footprint behind.
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