Electric Beaver May Fly By Year’s End


A Canadian seaplane airline expects to flight test an electrically powered De Havilland Beaver before the end of the year with an eye to flying passengers in 2022. As we reported earlier this year, Harbour Air, which flies about 40 floatplanes to islands and coastal communities on the west coast of British Columbia, announced it intended to eventually convert its full fleet to electric power. Immediately after the announcement, the airline started installing a 540-kW MagniX electric motor in the Beaver, a 60-year-old bush plane that originally had a radial engine. “Currently, we are on track for the first test flight to take place before the end of the year,” said company founder and CEO Greg McDougall.

If McDougall is correct, his could become the first to fly passengers electrically and the first all-electric aircraft. Harbour Air’s unique operating circumstances make that all possible. Most flights are less than an hour and the aircraft are almost always over water, making emergency landing sites readily available. But McDougall, a passionate proponent of electric power, said the new propulsion system should make that even less likely. “Electric motors are extremely reliable. They don’t have the same number of moving parts as a turbine or piston engine and they have much better durability,” he said in a statement in March.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. …. A Canadian float-plane operator expects to flight test an electrically-powered DHC2 Beaver ….

    Why? Is he gone totally troppo? Barking mad?

    (Mann-made “global warming” being but a Fifteen-Trillion-Dollar fascist fraud)

    • As much as I agree that the original theory of MMGW has already been debunked by atmospheric data collected over the last 30 years, ANY upgrade to replace the old radial engines is probably a good thing. The preflight and preheat on old radials probably takes longer than some of their flights! Since this is a private endeavor, I want to see how the economics plays out. Like MMGW, if the data does not support the theory, he may be reasonable and toss the theory and stop at just 1 airplane.

    • Got a kick out of your post, Brian. However, maybe operating costs would be lower with electric. I imagine an electric motor would go virtually forever, and rebuilding a radial isn’t cheap.

  2. Electric airplanes (electric ANYTHING) + water = bad idea. Imagine surviving a ditching, just to be electrocuted.

    • Dammit David … you took the wind right outta my ‘sails.’ I wonder what the coroner would put on the death cert for someone who died that way? Around here, the local fire department has strict instructions with electric cars … yank the people out — if it’s safe to do so — and let the car burn. No water allowed.

      Having had to pre-heat my airplane yesterday for close to an hour, I can empathize with the lack of pre-heat requirement but the rest of it … it’s someone’s idea of a joke. Google Burt Rutan and Climate change and spend an hour getting “educated.”

    • It would be quite simple to have something to kill the connection to the inverter if this was to happen. Hundreds of volts of DC from the battery ain’t no big thing.

    • I think its funny how batteries are so dangerous yet gasoline is okay. Do you guys realize how much more dangerous a flammable fuel contained in a cell that ruptures at the slighest deformation and explodes with the slightest spark. Did you see the latest two high profile crashes and the end result???

      Batteries can be contained much more easily. If they short they usually short to themselves (least path of resistance).

  3. Any endeavor that would modernise a radial-powered aircraft is to be welcomed. Bringing a Beaver past the jet-power into electric power is a leap…but should provide lots of data for other flying applications.
    People can deny Global Warming all they want. Reality wil ring the wake-up bell soon enough.

    • No one denies the surface temperatures are very slightly rising; science shows that it’s not because of heat trap in the atmosphere. That means the mechanism is independent from co2. That’s good news.

    • It’s called “climate change”, and it will happen with or without mankind. Are we affecting it? Probably, but it would be far easier to adapt to changes than try to stop them.

  4. Its absolutely fantastic that someone is taking this on! I wish I owned an electric aircraft this way I could measure engine failures by the million instead of thousands…

    Best of skill!!!!