All-electric seaplane fleet coming to the Pacific Northwest

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A few weeks after a watershed sustainable jet fuel summit was held in Seattle, the country’s largest seaplane airline, which is based in the Pacific Northwest, announced a partnership aimed at transitioning to an all-electric commercial fleet.

The collaboration between magniX, a Seattle-area electric motor startup, and Harbour Air Seaplanes will transform the company’s seaplanes into a zero emissions commercial fleet powered by the magni500, a 750 horsepower (HP) all-electric motor.

Harbour Air operates 12 routes between hubs like Seattle and Vancouver and across the Pacific Northwest. It was the first fully carbon-neutral airline in North America in 2007, through the purchase of carbon offsets, said Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air Seaplanes in a press release.

“[Now] we are once again pushing the boundaries of aviation by becoming the first aircraft to be powered by electric propulsion. We are excited to bring commercial electric aviation to the Pacific Northwest, turning our seaplanes into ePlanes.”

Harbour Air serves more than 500,000 passengers on 30,000 commercial flights each year.

The partnership is the latest in a series of developments unveiled in the fledgling sustainable jet fuel industry, a sector targeted by companies and public agencies in the Pacific Northwest.

The Port of Seattle recently set a goal to power every flight fueled at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with 10 percent sustainable aviation fuels by 2028.

Earlier this month, during the sustainable aviation fuel summit, Boeing announced it will begin offering airlines and operators the chance to have their jets powered by biofuel when they take off for their new homes.

Other Seattle-area startups are moving into this space. Kirkland, Washington-based Zunum Aero is developing its own hybrid-electric airplane with backing from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures. The company has set 2022 as the target date for first delivery to operators such as JetSuite.

The Harbour Air ePlane will have zero reliance on fossil fuels, said Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, in the press release.

“In 2018, 75 percent of worldwide airline flights were 1,000 miles or less in range. With magniX’s new propulsion systems coupled with emerging battery capabilities, we see tremendous potential for electric aviation to transform this heavily trafficked ‘middle mile’ range,” explained Ganzarski, who just last week relocated the company’s headquarters from Australia to Redmond, Washington.

The Harbour Air partnership, he said, “will set the standard for the future of commercial aviation operators.”

The first aircraft to be converted will be the DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver, a six-passenger commercial aircraft used across Harbour Air’s route network. Harbour Air and magniX expect to conduct first flight tests of the all-electric aircraft in late 2019.