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.