Harbour Air's Electric Beaver Achieves First Flight by Commercial Aircraft

 - December 10, 2019, 4:35 PM
Harbour Air made a first flight with a DHC-2 Beaver aircraft powered by Magnix's electric magni500 motor on December 10.

Harbour Air made what it said was the world’s first flight by an all-electric commercial aircraft on Tuesday when one of its re-engined DHC-2 de Havilland Beavers took off from Richmond, near Vancouver in British Columbia. The six-passenger aircraft, piloted by company CEO Greg McDougall, made a short test flight powered by a single 750-hp Magnix magni500 electric motor.

The Canadian operator’s goal is to be ready to operate scheduled passenger flights in all-electric aircraft within two years. In addition to the DHC-2 Beaver, it operates a 40-strong fleet of larger DHC-3 Turbine Single Otters and DHC-6 Twin Otters. Magnix expects that it will take until the end of 2021 to get the required supplemental type certificates for the three aircraft.

Harbour Air's network connects Vancouver and Seattle with Pacific Northwest destinations—including Victoria, Nanaimo, Tofino, Whistler, Sechelt, Salt Spring Island, Pitt Meadows, Maple Bay and Comox. It carries around 500,000 passengers each year, with around 300 daily flights between scheduled and charter services.

U.S.-based Magnix is developing electric propulsion systems for a variety of aircraft applications. These include the all-electric Alice fixed-wing design being developed by its sister company, Eviation Aircraft, as well as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Following the initial test flight, Magnix will now work on getting the magni500 motor certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration before seeking an STC from Transport Canada for the Beaver installation. "We anticipate that the certification process will take one or two years, at which time we would like to convert the rest of the fleet [to electric power," a spokesperson explained to AIN.