World’s first commercial electric float plane launches

Published: December 12, 2019

electric float plane Photo by Harbour Air Ltd./Twitter

Flying to a cottage on the B.C. coast is about to get a lot quieter and more environmentally friendly thanks to a new electric-powered float plane.

Float plane operator Harbour Air is replacing the fossil-fuel-burning engine on one of its six-passenger de Havilland Beavers with a 750 hp electric motor. The move—a first in the commercial aviation industry—is the initial step towards converting the airline’s entire fleet to electric. 

“We’re excited to bring commercial electric aviation to the Pacific Northwest,” says Greg McDougall, Harbour Air’s founder and CEO. The airline was also Canada’s first to go carbon neutral. 

The biggest challenge with making the transition to an electric float plane is the weight of the batteries; Harbour has partnered with aviation battery leader MagniX, and together, they’re testing a prototype Beaver this December.

McDougall expects Transport Canada and U.S. certification and approval to take up to two years, and then the company will convert the rest of the fleet to electric.

Harbour Air runs the largest floatplane operations in North America, flying around the south coast of B.C. and across the border to Seattle. The ultimate goal?

For all 12 existing destinations, including Whistler, Salt Spring Island, Tofino, and the Backeddy Resort and Marina at the north end of the Sunshine Coast, to remain within range. 

“I think my customers will love electric float planes,” says Kristine Bennett, Backeddy’s dock master. “I get a lot of complaints about how loud the seaplanes are, so anything that can help with that would be amazing. And around here people are in tune with the environment.”

How quickly can you recharge your electric car’s batteries on your cottage commute?

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