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All-electric commercial seaplane takes to the air for the first time

The first all-electric commercial seaplane has successfully landed following a test flight at the Harbour Air Seaplane terminal in Richmond, British Columbia. The venture is a partnership between Harbour Air and engineering firm MagniX, with the goal of creating the world’s first all-electric airline. While that’s still a way off, the demonstration is an impressive showcase of what’s possible.

The test flight was made using a 750 horsepower electric motor engine. The pilot, Harbour Air founder and chief executive Greg McDougall, spent only a few minutes in the air before circling back and landing. However, this was enough to prove the concept. The Harbour Air e-plane, a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver modified with a Magni500 electric propulsion system, is equipped to carry six passengers. It was shown off for the first time at the Paris Air Show in June. Its high-power-density electric propulsion system is described as a more sustainable and efficient way to power airplanes.

Today, we made history. Launching the world’s first electric commercial aircraft retrofitted with a 750 horsepower all-electric magni500 propulsion system. Thank you to our amazing maintenance team and our partners at @MagniX for all your efforts! Together, we did it! ???? #ePlane

— Harbour Air Seaplanes (@HarbourAirLtd) December 10, 2019

“This is the world’s first flight of an all-electric commercial aircraft,” Aubrey Lerche, a spokesperson for the project, told Digital Trends. “Not a two-passenger personal aircraft; not a hybrid; but an aircraft built and operated as a commercial aircraft flying passengers and cargo from A to B, flown by the operating airline all-electric. This is a watershed moment that defines the start of the electric era of aviation. An era with low operating costs for the airlines, low ticket prices for the flying public, and zero emissions — all leading to the connectivity of communities.”

In a statement, Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX, ambitiously likened the achievement to the innovation of the Wright brothers, with their first flight in December 1903. “The transportation industry and specifically the aviation segment that has been, for the most part, stagnant since the late 1930s, is ripe for a massive disruption,” Ganzarski said. “Now we are proving that low-cost, environmentally friendly, commercial electric air travel can be a reality in the very near future.”

The next step is to get the necessary certification and approvals to advance the concept. The team expects this to take until the end of 2021. “Once certification and approval processes are complete, Harbour Air will look to magnify the fleet,” Lerche said.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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