Harbour Air Seaplanes, the largest seaplane airline in North America, made history in 2019 when it successfully tested the world’s first electrically-powered commercial passenger aircraft.
The six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver floatplane, powered by an advanced MagniX electric propulsion system, flew a four-minute test flight at the Vancouver International Airport floatplane terminal.
Greg McDougall, founder of Harbour Air Seaplanes, was at the controls of the electric aircraft during its maiden flight.
“I am incredibly proud of Harbour Air’s leadership role in re-defining safety and innovation in the aviation and seaplane industry,” McDougall said at the time. “Canada has long held an iconic role in the history of aviation, and to be part of this incredible world-first milestone is something we can all be really proud of.”
In another milestone this past weekend, Harbour Air’s ePlane made its first appearance in downtown Vancouver on Earth Day, marking a significant checkpoint along the path of testing and approval for the certification of electric flying in Canada. The plane launched from the Fraser River at Vancouver International Airport and landed in Coal Harbour.
The ePlane project began in 2019, and Harbour Air has since been a global leader in electrifying and testing zero-emission aircraft.
The company offers more than 300 daily flights to 12 destinations across British Columbia and Seattle, US. Harbour Air’s commitment to sustainability has inspired it to invest significantly in reducing its carbon footprint.
“On this Earth Day 2023, we acknowledge the immense effort required to make a meaningful difference in our environmental impact,” stated Bert van der Stege, CEO of Harbour Air. “As we celebrate this year’s theme of ‘Invest In Our Planet,’ we are excited to continue our work towards a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future.”
The Spring ePlane Tour, showcasing the future of sustainable flight throughout British Columbia, started with an appearance in downtown Vancouver on April 22.
Upcoming stops include a visit to Salt Spring Island for Electrify Salt Spring on May 5th and 6th, followed by Victoria Harbour on May 7th and 8th.
“Harbour Air is thrilled to be participating in Electrify Salt Spring, a month-long program bringing experts on electrification and renewable technologies together,” the carbon-neutral airline stated. “The ePlane will make its first visit to the Gulf Islands, marking the first time the prototype plane will land on a scheduled flight route, from Richmond South to Salt Spring Island.”
Harbour Air announced a partnership with aviation electrification pioneer magniX earlier this year with plans to build the world’s first completely electric commercial seaplane fleet.
The magni500, a high-power-density electric propulsion system, provides a clean and efficient way to power airplanes. The e-plane, a Canadian-built de Havilland Beaver, has successfully completed 25 hours of flight time among 72 flights.
While Harbour Air is certainly a company to watch, its journey has not been without friction.
“As we attempt to take the path never traveled before, overcoming challenges is very common in the commercialization and certification of new and novel technologies,” the company remarked in a recent status update.
Certifying the installation of components into an aircraft where no certification path exists has been difficult, Harbour Air noted, especially while using novel engine and battery technology.
“Incorporating the elements of software and electronic control systems makes it increasingly difficult,” the company lamented. “Despite everyone’s best efforts there are significant delays in the program that have recently come to light.”
The main bottleneck is that innovation is moving faster than politics.
“Fundamentally, the technology has been outpacing the regulators,” stated Harbour Air, which is now refining its product and technology to adapt to shifting conditions in a bid to advance progress.