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Harbour Air commits to buying 50 electric engines for seaplane fleet


Harbour Air is travelling towards a more sustainable future, looking to electrify its fleet of 45 aircraft.

The process began when one of the company's De Havilland Beaver aircraft took flight five years ago on an electric engine.

“We had our first maiden flight back in 2019,” said Jessica Dunn, head of marketing and public affairs with Harbour Air.

That plane, retrofitted to be 100 per cent electric, flew 72 kilometres from Richmond, B.C., to Victoria. The engine in the plane was produced by MagniX, an electric powertrain company based in Washington state.

“We have continued to work together in partnership and we’ve had 78 successful test flights,” said Dunn.

Harbour Air hopes to have that plane commercially certified by 2026.

Now the company has taken a huge next step in its electrification plan, signing a letter of intent to purchase 50 engines from MagniX. The plan is to begin to convert its 12 remaining Beaver aircraft starting in 2027.

Then the company will move on to the rest of the fleet. “Ultimately our big vision is to develop a sustainability aviation hub on the West Coast,” said Dunn.

The goal is to electrify third-party planes, whether for competing companies or private owners.

“Zero-emission obviously is the biggest driver in all of this,” said Riona Armesmith, chief technology officer at MagniX.

Armesmith says MagniX has outfitted a variety of different types of aircraft with electric engines since 2019, proving that a zero-emission aviation industry is not only achievable, but just around the corner.

“It’s not only technically viable but also commercially viable and it’s just been a great partnership,” said Armesmith.

Harbour Air is commonly known as a transportation company, moving people from point A to point B. The company says it’s more diversified than that.

“We have other parts of our business which is Harbour Air Aerospace,” said Dunn.

That division maintains not only Harbour Air’s planes but those of third parties as well.

The creation of the hub will mean Harbour Air Aerospace will be expanding its cope of services.

“I think there’s still some challenges within the industry,” said Dunn.

A labour shortage is potentially slowing down the industry's sustainable transition. Harbour Air says over the past two years, 17,000 aviation maintenance engineers have retired from the industry in Canada and schools are only graduating roughly 300 per year.

“If we can really close that gap, I think that will help us push forward faster,” said Dunn, transitioning not only Harbour Air’s fleet but an entire aviation industry in the Pacific Northwest, towards a greener and more sustainable future. Top Stories

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