Harbour Air to test world's first electric-battery commercial airplane next month

Nov 29 2019, 4:01 pm

Aviation history is set to be made at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) next month when Harbour Air tests the world’s first fully electric-battery-powered aircraft for commercial use.

The aircraft in use is a retrofitted DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane, which now has a 750 horsepower all-electric magni500 propulsion system. It is the short-haul seaplane airline’s first aircraft retrofit.

Harbour Air ePlane

Artistic rendering of the first Harbour Air ePlane. (Harbour Air)

This prototype aircraft is scheduled to make its first test flight on Wednesday, December 11, but this is dependent on permitting issued by Transport Canada and suitable weather. The test is being conducted at YVR’s South Terminal, where the airport’s seaplane facilities are located.

As of yesterday, the seaplane’s batteries have been fully installed, all systems have been connected and tested, power has been turned on to test the turning of the propeller, full power ground tests have been performed, wings have been installed, and flight controls have been rigged.

Coal Harbour seaplane

Harbour Air seaplanes at Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre in Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver. (Shutterstock)

Harbour Air announced in March of this year it had partnered with Redmond, Washington-based magniX to convert its fossil-fuel-powered seaplanes into an electric-battery powered fleet. These planes will have zero reliance on fossil fuels and produce zero emissions.

“Through our commitment to making a positive impact on people’s lives, the communities where we operate and the environment, we are once again pushing the boundaries of aviation by becoming the first aircraft to be powered by electric propulsion,” said Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air, in a statement at the time.

“We are excited to bring commercial electric aviation to the Pacific Northwest, turning our seaplanes into ePlanes.”

Harbour Air sees over 500,000 passengers on 30,000 commercial flights annually, with 12 operating routes including from Vancouver to Seattle, Vancouver to Victoria, and Vancouver to Nanaimo.

In 2007, Harbour Air became the first fully carbon-neutral airline in North America through its acquisition of carbon offsets.