A Canadian seaplane operator on Tuesday successfully test flew the world’s first all-electric commercial aircraft, in a three-minute flight it said had launched a new era of aviation.
Vancouver-based Harbour Air, which claims to be North America’s largest seaplane airline, and Seattle-based all-electric propulsionmaker magniX, tested a 63-year-old DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver retrofitted with a 750-horsepower electric motor on the Fraser River near Richmond, British Columbia.
The yellow e-plane was piloted by Harbour Air CEO and founder Greg McDougall.
“Today, we made history,” McDougall said in a statement.
Here’s a look at the Harbour Air eplane test flight this morning. The age of electric aviation is right around the corner.
“In December 1903, the Wright Brothers launched a new era of transportation — the aviation age — with the first flight of a powered aircraft. Today, 116 years later, with the first flight of an all-electric powered commercial aircraft, we launched the electric era of aviation,” said Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX.
Global aviation is a major source of climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions.
Ganzarski said that in addition to zero emissions, e-planes are low-cost and will allow savings on fuel.
Harbour Air plans to electrify its entire fleet of more than 40 aircraft.
But first, the e-plane has to begin a two-year certification and approval process for the propulsion system and the retrofitting of aircraft, the companies said in a statement.
One limitation is that an aircraft like that one flown Tuesday can only fly 100 miles (160 kilometers) on lithium battery power, said Ganzarski.
However, that range is sufficient for most short-haul flights run by Harbour Air.
Several other companies are also working on electric planes, including Boeing and Airbus.