First com­mer­cial elec­tric plane takes flight in Canada

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

The world's first fully elec­tric com­mer­cial air­craft took its in­au­gu­ral test flight on Tues­day, tak­ing off from the Cana­dian city of Van­cou­ver and of­fer­ing hope that air­lines may one day end their pol­lut­ing emis­sions.

"This proves that com­mer­cial avi­a­tion in all-elec­tric form can work," said Roei Gan­zarski, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Seat­tle­based en­gi­neer­ing firm mag­niX.

The com­pany de­signed the plane's mo­tor and worked in part­ner­ship with Har­bour Air, which fer­ries half a mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year be­tween Van­cou­ver, Whistler ski re­sort and nearby is­lands and coastal com­mu­ni­ties.

Gan­zarski said the tech­nol­ogy would mean sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings for air­lines - not to men­tion zero emis­sions.

"This sig­ni­fies the start of the elec­tric avi­a­tion age," he told re­porters.

Civil avi­a­tion is one of the fastest grow­ing sources of car­bon emis­sions as peo­ple in­creas­ingly take to the skies and new tech­nolo­gies have been slow to get off the ground.

At 285gm of CO2 emit­ted per km trav­elled by each pas­sen­ger, air­line in­dus­try emis­sions far ex­ceed those from all other modes of trans­port, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean En­vi­ron­ment Agency. The emis­sions con­trib­ute to global warm­ing and cli­mate change, which sci­en­tists say will un­leash ever harsher droughts, su­per­storms and sea-level rise.

The e-plane - a 62 year old, six-pas­sen­ger DHC-2 de Hav­il­land Beaver sea­plane retro­fit­ted with an elec­tric mo­tor - was pi­lot­ted by Greg Mc­Dougall, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Har­bour Air.

"For me, that flight was just like fly­ing a Beaver, but it was a Beaver on elec­tric steroids. I ac­tu­ally had to back off on the

power," he said.

Mc­Dougall took the plane on a short loop along the Fraser River near Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port in front of around 100 on­look­ers soon af­ter sun­rise.

En­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly fly­ing

The flight lasted less than 15 min­utes, ac­cord­ing to an AFP jour­nal­ist on the scene.

"Our goal is to ac­tu­ally elec­trify the en­tire fleet. There's no rea­son not to," said Mc­Dougall.

On top of fuel ef­fi­ciency, the com­pany would save mil­lions in main­te­nance costs, as elec­tric mo­tors re­quire "dras­ti­cally" less up­keep, Mc­Dougall said.

How­ever, Har­bour Air will have to wait at least two years before it can be­gin elec­tri­fy­ing its fleet of more than 40 sea­planes.

The e-plane has to be tested fur­ther to con­firm it is re­li­able and safe. In ad­di­tion, the elec­tric mo­tor must be ap­proved and cer­ti­fied by reg­u­la­tors.

In Ot­tawa, Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc

Garneau told re­porters ahead of the maiden flight that he had his "fin­gers crossed that the elec­tric plane will work well."

If it does, he said, "it could set a trend for more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly fly­ing."

Bat­tery power is also a chal­lenge. An air­craft like the one flown on Tues­day could only fly about 160km on lithium bat­tery power, said Gan­zarski.

While that's not far, it's suf­fi­cient for the ma­jor­ity of short-haul flights run by Har­bour Air.

"The range now is not where we'd love it to be, but it's enough to start the revo­lu­tion," said Gan­zarski, who pre­dicts bat­ter­ies and elec­tric mo­tors will even­tu­ally be de­vel­oped to power longer flights.

While the world waits, he said cheaper short-haul flights pow­ered by elec­tric­ity could trans­form the way peo­ple con­nect and where they work.

"If peo­ple are will­ing to drive an hour to work, why not fly 15 min­utes to work?" he said.

Our goal is to ac­tu­ally elec­trify the en­tire fleet. There's no rea­son not to Greg Mc­Dougall

(AFP pho­tos)

The world’s first all-elec­tric, zero-emis­sion com­mer­cial air­craft taxis to the wa­ter dur­ing a test flight from Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s South Ter­mi­nal on the Fraser River in Rich­mond, Bri­tish Columbia, Canada, on De­cem­ber 10, 2019

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