Photo Info

Canada’s first commercial electric flight: e-aviation starts with pilot training

By Press Release | July 3, 2024

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 14 seconds.

The clouds parted on a rainy day on Vancouver Island so that Edwin, a 15 year old high school student, could pay $20 to have his first flight lesson. The unique part of the introductory flight was that the plane was fully powered by batteries. This marks the beginning of ‘commercial’ electric aviation in Canada.  

The student was selected based on his essay: Why I want to pilot an electric plane. 

Sealand Flight, a flight school based at Campbell River on Vancouver Island, held the essay competition as part of their project to train a cohort of ab initio students in the Pipistrel Velis Electro. When the students reach the solo stage, they will transition to conventional aircraft. That way, they will have the skills to pilot either electric or avgas fueled airplanes. 

Sealand is the second flight school to be selected to participate in a Transport Canada pilot project to evaluate the potential for flight training in the Velis Electro. Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, WWFC, was the first flight school selected and the approvals that Transport Canada granted to Sealand were based on the experience and results gained from flying the Velis Electro at Waterloo over the last year.   

The Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics, WISA, partners with both flight schools to collect data and conduct evaluations as part of the Transport Canada project. WISA researchers look at both the human and technical dimensions of the transition to electric aviation.  

The evaluation of initial technical data was reported in a previous blog post that showed the initial electrical performance of the aircraft in southern Ontario and Vancouver Island to be similar. Next, WISA will look at the responses of student pilots and instructors to surveys that measure their perceptions of electric flights and how they compare to conventional flights. The strength of desires to fly and motivations before the flight will be compared to the level of satisfaction after the experience. The ability to complete individual flight lessons is also recorded. 

The first commercial electric flight marks an important start in the electrification of the flight training industry. Next, we will look at bigger cohorts of students either starting ab initio training with electric flights or adding electric skills to their existing conventional training. Potential benefits include the reduction of carbon emissions, lead emissions and noise during training.  

Pilot training is currently very expensive. The low cost of electricity for the Velis Electro ($2-4 per hour) in comparison to aviation gas for the popular Cessna 172 trainer ($80 per hour) and the simplicity of the electric power system is hoped to reduce maintenance and overall costs. Battery replacement costs (estimated at $30 per hour) need to be added in, but overall, it is hoped to reduce the cost of becoming a pilot. There is currently a pilot shortage in Canada and globally. Electric aviation may help make flight training more accessible and meet the demand for pilots. 

The limited range of current batteries means that short regional flights will be an early market for electric aviation. Harbour Air of Vancouver has announced their order of 50 electric motors to convert their seaplane fleet to electric power for their network of short flights among airports on Vancouver Island, the Gulf islands, and the lower mainland of British Columbia. Air Canada has announced their order of 30 ES-30 electric regional aircraft from Heart Aerospace. 

The crowd of aviation, government, airport and general onlookers gathered on Vancouver Island to witness a special moment in Canadian aviation history.   

Commercial electric aviation has begun in Canada with a high school student taking his first lesson. This could lead to broader electric flight training for pilots, local electric sightseeing flights, and regional commercial flights with Harbour Air, Air Canada and other carriers.    

This article was written by Paul Parker and distributed by the University of Waterloo.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Coulson Aviation’s Hawaii Mars

Notice a spelling mistake or typo?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Report an error or typo

Have a story idea you would like to suggest?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Suggest a story