Earlier this year, Vancouver based Harbour Air announced plans to convert its fleet of 42 planes to all-electric engines, making it the first in the world to do so. Later this month, they will be taking a big first step towards that goal with the first test flight.
Plans call for the conversion of the entire fleet by 2022, but history could be made when they plan to make a test-flight on December 11 of their first conversion with a 750 horsepower electric engine. The electric six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver float plane will be flown solo by Harbour Air founder and CEO Greg McDougall according to the CBC.
The test flight will take McDougall from the Fraser River towards Richmond in the west, before heading back to land back in the Fraser River. The flight should take no more than 10 minutes, but will be a historic first step not just for Harbour Air, but for the future of electric planes.
The conversion of the float plane to electric was taken on by a neighbouring Washington State company called magniX. The biggest problem to solve for the conversion was what kind of battery to use for flying, something very different than driving. Their team eventually settled on a NASA-approved lithium ion system that was used on the space station.
Harbour Air currently flies short-range flights between Greater Vancouver, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Whistler, and Seattle, making it an ideal candidate for electric planes that until many year into the future won’t be able to have the same range as fossil fuel powered planes today.