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B.C.-based seaplane airline, Harbour Air, has successfully completed the first all-electric point-to-point test flight with its ePlane – an electrified de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. The flight, which took place on Aug. 17, flew 45 miles in 24 minutes using 100 percent electricity.
Kory Paul, Harbour Air’s VP of flight operations and one of the company’s test pilots, reported that the flight “went exactly as planned.”
According to a company press release, the ePlane (C-FJOS) took off out of the Fraser River (adjacent to Vancouver International Airport) at 8:12 a.m. local time, and landed in Pat Bay (adjacent to Victoria International Airport) at 8:36 a.m., “with ample reserve power.”
The historic flight marked a “major milestone in the advancement of all-electric commercial flights,” said Harbour Air, which flew its ePlane for the first time in December 2019 – demonstrating the first electric commercial aircraft in the world to get airborne.
On that inaugural flight in 2019, the ePlane prototype was powered by the 750-horsepower magni500 electric motor. Harbour Air later decided to move forward with magniX’s magni350 electric propulsion unit (EPU), after performing nearly 30 test flights with the ePlane at various power settings.
In April 2021, battery storage provider H55 came into the picture, partnering with Harbour Air to install its enhanced battery system on the ePlane. Harbour Air’s VP of aerospace, Shawn Braiden, explained that the battery modules would be distributed throughout the aircraft in order to maintain the original center of gravity, while also ensuring the cabin space is retained for occupants.
Today, Harbour Air is continuing to work with magniX and H55 to certify the magni350 EPU and H55 enhanced battery system on the ePlane through a supplemental type certificate (STC) program. The company has now performed in excess of 30 test flights, and continues to collect data on how the motor and battery systems are performing.
“Our team as well as the team at magniX and Transport Canada are always closely monitoring the aircraft’s performance, and today’s flight further proved the safety and reliability of what we have built,” said Paul after the recent point-to-point test flight.
While all test flights thus far have been completed with the first ePlane prototype (C-FJOS), Harbour Air has quietly been working on ePlane number 2 (C-FIFQ) since December 2021. C-FIFQ is also a DHC-2 Beaver, and will be utilized as Harbour Air’s certification validation aircraft. The company said in December that the aircraft had been stripped of all powerplant, fuel systems, and subsystems, and the airframe was undergoing alterations to prepare it for conversion. Since then, there have been no further updates on C-FIFQ.
C-FJOS, on the other hand, was recently on display to the public following its all-electric point-to-point test flight. After the ePlane landed in Victoria, it stayed there to be showcased during the BC Aviation Museum’s open house, which was held Aug. 20. The aircraft subsequently returned to Harbour Air’s aerospace maintenance facility at YVR.
Harbour Air has been a carbon-neutral operator since 2007, and with the ePlane project, the company hopes to turn its 40+ fleet of seaplanes from carbon-neutral to carbon-zero.
“We know that the electrification of our fleet is the next necessary step to truly make a difference in our environmental and economic goals. It is better for the communities we serve and it also gives our passengers a better way to travel,” the company said.