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Transportation

Heart of an Electric Bird

ARTIFACT: BC’s Harbour Air is about to test fly a fossil fuel-free seaplane.

David Beers 3 Dec 2019 | TheTyee.ca

David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee.

Behold the substitute for the emissions-belching engines that spin propellers on commercial aircraft. The photo above is of a magniX electric motor, the kind that Richmond-based Harbour Air aims to put into all its seaplanes as it strives to be the world’s first fossil fuel-free airline.

The first test flight is scheduled for Dec. 11 at Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal on the Fraser River.

This ain’t no flying Prius. It’s a Tesla with wings, 100-per-cent battery powered. “A Harbour Air ePlane will have zero reliance on fossil fuels and produce zero emissions,” reads the airline’s press release.

Harbour Air, which makes 30,000 flights a year, claims to be North America’s largest all-seaplane airline, and already the first to be carbon neutral due to its purchases of carbon offsets. Motor maker magniX is headquartered in Redmond, Washington, near Seattle.

582px version of HarbourAirEPlane.jpg
Flying Tesla: Harbour Air is converting its DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver to an ePlane.

The first aircraft in Harbour Air’s fleet to go electric will be that well-known fixture in Canada’s skies, the six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver. Harbour Air is equipping one of its 1960s-vintage planes with a 750 horsepower magni500 and swapping gas tanks for batteries. Not only does the electric motor massively save on fossil fuel costs, it requires far less maintenance.

In aiming to become the world’s first all-electric airline, Harbour Air is flying against some strong headwinds coming from Ottawa. So far Transport Canada hasn’t created a way for electric-powered aircraft to be certified.

This even though the benefits are obvious amidst a climate crisis. Three out of four commercial flights are under 1,000 miles, and the aviation industry contributes 12 per cent of all U.S. carbon emissions and five per cent globally.

Harbour Air, for its part, has signalled it’s ready for take-off, vowing to be fully certified by 2021 for operating battery-powered birds.  [Tyee]

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