The First All-Electric Commercial Aeroplane Takes Flight in Canada

Powered by a 560kW electric engine, the plane completed its first successful flight.

By Bryan Hood 12/12/2019

The aviation industry has been nowhere near as quick to embrace electrification as its automotive counterparts. There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest limiting factor? Power. Lithium-ion batteries are still too heavy to make long-haul zero-emission flying a practical concept. Yet progress is being made, and just this week the first commercial electric seaplane took flight in Canada.

The plane, a modified DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver equipped with a Magni500 electric propulsion system, made its first flight in Richmond, British Columbia earlier this week. The result of a collaboration between Canada’s Harbour Air and US engineering company magniX, the aircraft is the first step in a far more ambitious plan to create the world’s first electric airline.

In a video posted to social media, Harbour Air’s yellow seaplane can be seen making the successful trial flight. Piloted by company founder Greg McDougall, the small, six-passenger craft spends a couple minutes in the air before circling back and landing on the water to cheers from a gathered crowd of onlookers.

Harbour Air’s modified DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver is powered by magniX’s 560kW electric motor engine, which made its debut at the Paris Air Show in June. The high-power-density electric propulsion system promises to provide a clean and efficient way to power aeroplanes. While there is still plenty of testing to be done, the two companies hope to obtain all the necessary certifications and approvals needed to advance the concept by the end of 2021.

While this isn’t the first all-electric aircraft we’ve seen take flight—both Vertical Aerospace and Lilium achieved the feat this Spring—it is the first aircraft equipped to carry actual passengers. Because of that, it’s fair to say that this flight added one more milestone on the flight path to an all-electric flying future.

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