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Harbour Air to begin testing all-electric flight this year


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Okay, here's an interesting first - Harbour Air will be re-engining as the Canada's first commercial airline using electric propulsion of some kind. Sure, it's short-short-short haul, but it might open a new market for some older aircraft models.


Top seaplane airline Harbour Air switching to battery-powered aircraft


Greg McDougall, CEO of Harbour Air Seaplanes, at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre in Vancouver, on March 25, 2019. 

Seaplane operator Harbour Air, which regularly shuttles B.C.'s political class to and from Victoria, is looking to become the first all-electric fleet of commercial planes in Canada – but the company head says passengers have nothing to fear.

Greg McDougall, founder of the company that bills itself as North America’s largest seaplane airline, said Monday that “I’ll be the first guy to fly one. I’ll be the test pilot of it.” He was referring to an electric-powered prototype the company will test within months as a prelude to electrifying the fleet within about two years.

By November, the company is planning to be testing a de Havilland Canada DHC 2 Beaver, a six-passenger aircraft equipped with an all-electric motor developed by magniX, a company based in Redmond, Wash. MagniX has been crafting the technology on the ground, but has yet to operate it in an aircraft.

“I wouldn’t put myself in there if I thought there was a problem. I certainly wouldn’t put my loved ones in there if I thought there was a problem – or my passengers," Mr. McDougall said.

“We have to prove a standard of safety that’s equal to or better than what we currently have.”

Mr. McDougall, who founded Harbour Air in 1982 with a pair of small seaplanes, says he is making the shift to keep ahead of the electrification of transportation, and also to reduce the company’s environmental impact.

He said his company is in a unique position to advance the concept of electric flight because its flights are relatively short, with average lengths of about 30 minutes in single-engine aircraft that don’t require as much power or battery capacity as other aircraft.

The company also has flights to and from destinations such as Nanaimo, B.C., and Tofino, B.C., on Vancouver Island as well as Whistler, B.C., , Sechelt, B.C., and Salt Spring Island, B.C., among other locations. They carry about 500,000 passengers a year.

Steve Holding, chief instructor for aviation technical programs at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, said electric flight is being developed but without breakthroughs on the scale Harbour Air is proposing.

“Powering a larger aircraft with batteries is still really a huge technical challenge just because of the weight of batteries required to put out the power to allow a larger aircraft to take off and climb – one I wish we could overcome as quickly as possible,” he said.Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of magniX, agreed on the battery issue. “Battery density is not where we want it to be for long-range flying, similar to where automobiles were seven years ago,” he said in an interview.

However, he said the company has been working on the technology, and electric makes sense for Harbour Air, which would not have to significantly change their operations for electric flight.

Asked about whether he had ever heard of an airline anywhere executing the idea, Mr. Holding referred to a media report from late 2018 about an airline using small aircraft in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago off Scotland’s northeastern coast, looking at the idea.

Like Alberta and Quebec, British Columbia’s legislature is not in the province’s largest city. While Vancouver is B.C’s urban centre, the legislature, and key offices of the civil service, are in Victoria more than 100 kilometres south across the Georgia Strait. That creates a need for movement between the two cities that is met by the ferries, commercial helicopter flights, and by Harbour Air.

The airline, which has a fleet of about 40 aircraft, will eventually face a path of approval from Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency – flights to and from Seattle are among the dozen routes it offers.

Mr. McDougall said the company has already been in touch with regulators in both countries.

He said this shift is not a whim, but a mandate he handed to his executive team. It took off when he made a connection with magniX.

“We were already on the pathway of trying to figure this out and then we met the magniX people, who had a common code with us, which was to pioneer this. They obviously have a commercial reason for doing that,” he said.




Edited by dagger
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9 minutes ago, blues deville said:

I’m thinking “flight over water only” until they’re proven to be realiable. Hard to beat those PW radial engines. 

Excellent point ! Never thought of that.

 And the pilots could use thier I pads to practice dead stick landins onto the ocean !?

 The new round engines (PT 6s) , are even better than the old "round engines"

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Just now, Tango Foxtrot said:

Excellent point ! Never thought of that.

 And the pilots could use thier I pads to practice dead stick landins onto the ocean !?

 The new round engines (PT 6s) , are even better than the old "round engines"

Nope... The beaver was lost to me when they put the new fangled turbo whatchamacallits on the front of it, giving it a big nose.  Its just wrong and doesn't sound right.


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  • 2 months later...

NASA marks milestones in development of electric X-57
by Matt Kamlet for AFRC
Cleveland OH (SPX) Jun 21, 2019

X-57, pictured here in its final Mod IV configuration, will be powered by a battery system that consists of 16 battery modules. This system will comprise 800 lbs of the aircraft's total weight. NASA Aeronautics researchers will use the Maxwell to demonstrate that electric propulsion can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

NASA's X-57 project has marked two critical milestones, taking two major steps toward demonstrating the benefits of electric propulsion for aviation.

More general aviation aircraft are in the air every year, which means that the challenge to address aircraft efficiency, noise and emissions becomes greater. NASA's X-57 Maxwell, the agency's first all-electric X-plane, will seek to meet that challenge by demonstrating innovative technology through electric-powered experimental flight.

The X-57 project is achieving this through several successive phases, in which the aircraft, a Tecnam P2006T, will undergo different modifications, or "Mods," which NASA is tackling simultaneously to progress from one phase to the next, both safely and efficiently.

One of these milestones was achieved as part of X-57's Mod II activity - the configuration in which the X-57 project will flight test the research propulsion system, and will eventually fly as a fully electric aircraft. Mod II includes the replacement of the baseline aircraft's two inboard combustion engines with electric cruise motors.

Having integrated much of the initial electric system into the Mod II aircraft, engineers for the first time tested the motors and propellers, integrated onto the vehicle, in an initial spin test.

"This is the first time we've had the electric motors installed with propellers and had them spinning," said Sean Clarke, NASA's Principal Investigator for X-57. "This was a big milestone, as it was a big systems test where we were able to run both motors on the airplane at the same time.

"It's really exciting to actually have all of the systems integrated and to be able to operate the vehicle that we've been designing for our system tests. It's a huge opportunity for us, so we're very excited."

The test, which took place at Scaled Composites' facility in Mojave, California, verified that the propellers, which pull energy from the motor to provide thrust and propel the aircraft, operate as expected as the motors were provided with significant amounts of power for the first time.

Instead of using batteries, which the vehicle will ultimately use during taxi and flight tests, the spin test was carried out from the ground using a power supply. Following stages of Mod II testing include repeating the test with the use of batteries, and delivery of the Mod II aircraft to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Once delivered to NASA, the Mod II aircraft will undergo verification, followed by taxi tests, and eventually, experimental flight tests.

While Mod II proceeds toward testing, efforts are already well underway for X-57's Mod III phase.

Mod III includes the replacement of the aircraft's baseline wing with a new, high-aspect ratio wing, and features the repositioning of the electric cruise motors out to the wingtips - an arrangement that presents the potential to boost aircraft efficiency considerably, but was not feasible with heavier, traditional combustion engines.

X-57's Mod III activity also achieved a major milestone, as NASA received delivery of the Mod III wing from the project's prime contractor, Empirical Systems Aerospace, Inc. of San Luis Obispo, California, or ESAero.

Upon delivery of the wing, NASA immediately began running tests to verify that its specifications and components are sound, and that the wing matches NASA's structure and design models.

NASA's testing of the wing, which was built by Xperimental LLC in San Luis Obispo, includes weight and balance measurement, ground vibration testing, and wing loading tests. Weight and balance measurement determines the total mass and the center of gravity on the wing, and helps NASA verify that the aircraft will perform correctly during taxi and flight tests.

Ground vibration testing, or GVT, considers the engineering challenges of the relatively thin, high aspect-ratio wing, which could be prone to flutter and other vibration conditions in flight. The GVT lets NASA verify whether the structural properties built into the wing matches what is expected for flight.

Finally, the wing will undergo wing loading tests. These tests will confirm whether the wing structure acts as predicted as it carries the approximately 3,000 pound aircraft through flight.

"I think that getting the wing here really brings Mod III to reality for the team," said X-57 Deputy Operations Engineering Lead Kirsten Boogaard. "Having the wing come here and people being able to see the size of it, the look of it, just actually see it in person instead of in models, I think, is a really big deal for the project.

"It's a cool thing when ideas go from concept to reality, but that's what NASA does."

After these tests are complete, NASA will then send the wing back to ESAero, where the wing will undergo fit checks onto a second "fit-check" fuselage. Here, the wing will also have 12 nacelles integrated, which will eventually house 12 small, electric high-lift motors and propellers, which will be featured on X-57's final phase, Mod IV.

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NASA takes delivery of first all-electric experimental aircraft
by Staff Writers
Edwards AFB CA (SPX) Oct 04, 2019

The first all-electric configuration of NASA's X-57 Maxwell now is at the agency's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.

The X-57, NASA's first all-electric experimental aircraft, or X-plane - and the first crewed X-plane in two decades - was delivered by Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) of San Luis Obispo, California on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the first of three configurations as an all-electric aircraft, known as Modification II, or Mod II.

The X-57's Mod II vehicle features the replacement of traditional combustion engines on a baseline Tecnam P2006T aircraft, with electric cruise motors. The delivery is a major milestone for the project, allowing NASA engineers to begin putting the aircraft through ground tests, to be followed by taxi tests and eventually, flight tests.

"The X-57 Mod II aircraft delivery to NASA is a significant event, marking the beginning of a new phase in this exciting electric X-plane project," said X-57 Project Manager Tom Rigney.

"With the aircraft in our possession, the X-57 team will soon conduct extensive ground testing of the integrated electric propulsion system to ensure the aircraft is airworthy. We plan to rapidly share valuable lessons learned along the way as we progress toward flight testing, helping to inform the growing electric aircraft market."

While X-57's Mod II vehicle begins systems validation testing on the ground, efforts in preparation for the project's following phases, Mods III and IV, are already well underway, with the recent successful completion of loads testing on a new, high-aspect ratio wing at NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory.

Following completion of tests, the wing, which will be featured on Mods III and IV configurations, will undergo fit checks on a fuselage at ESAero, ensuring timely transition from the project's Mod II phase to Mod III.

"ESAero is thrilled to be delivering the MOD II X-57 Maxwell to NASA AFRC," said ESAero President and CEO Andrew Gibson.

"In this revolutionary time, the experience and lessons learned, from early requirements to current standards development, has the X-57 paving the way. This milestone, along with receiving the successfully load-tested MOD III wing back, will enable NASA, ESAero and the small business team to accelerate and lead electric air vehicle distributed propulsion development on the MOD III and MOD IV configurations with integration at our facilities in San Luis Obispo."

A goal of the X-57 project is to help develop certification standards for emerging electric aircraft markets, including urban air mobility vehicles, which also rely on complex distributed electric propulsion systems. NASA will share the aircraft's electric-propulsion-focused design and airworthiness process with regulators and industry, which will advance certification approaches for aircraft utilizing distributed electric propulsion.

The X-57 team is using a "design driver" as a technical challenge, to drive lessons learned and best practices. This design driver includes a 500% increase in high-speed cruise efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions, and flight that is much quieter for communities on the ground.

The X-57 project operates under the Integrated Aviation Systems Program's Flight Demonstrations and Capabilities project, within NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

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German start-up Lilium just got a step closer to making flying cars a reality

  • Lilium has announced completion of the first phase of testing on its five-seater air taxi, the Lilium Jet.
  • It’s also opened a new 3,000-square meter factory by its Munich headquarters and plans to build another one.
  • The firm hopes to eventually release a consumer-facing app that lets users hail the jet like they would an Uber.

H/O: Lilium Jet GIF long

Lilium’s electric air taxi, the Lilium Jet, is seen traveling at speeds of up to 100kmh (62mph) in new footage released by the firm.

German aviation start-up Lilium is showing off footage of its electric air taxi soaring through the air at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour).

The company on Tuesday announced the completion of the first phase of testing on its five-seater flying car, the Lilium Jet, a development that inches the firm closer to its aim of launching commercial flights by 2025.


Back in May, when Lilium first unveiled the aircraft taking off vertically, hovering for a short while and landing again, the team behind it was “in tears,” Chief Commercial Officer Remo Gerber told CNBC.

“There have been hundreds of tests already that have happened” since then, Gerber said in an interview. “It already started becoming a bit like normality to see it fly, but we’re super excited to show that to the world.”


H/O: Lilium over airfield GIF

Lilium’s five-seater air taxi can be seen flying over an airfield in southern Germany in new footage released by the firm.

Lilium’s jet, which is piloted remotely from the ground, has two parallel wings fitted with a total of 36 electric engines that face downward on takeoff and then tilt back for horizontal flight. It doesn’t come with a tail, rudder, propellers or gearbox. The firm also uses software for researchers to predict how the jet will perform once it’s airborne.

It plans to eventually release a consumer-facing app that lets users hail the jet like they would a taxi on Uber. As for how much rides will cost, the firm has said it plans to take New Yorkers from Manhattan to JFK Airport within six minutes for about $70.

Another long-term aim for the company is to complete a 300-kilometer — or 186-mile — journey in an hour. But it’s still a long way off that goal, and the bigger challenges for the company will be how it manages to scale up production of the passenger drones and acquire regulatory approvals to fly over major cities.


H/O: Lilium landing

Lilium’s electric air taxi, the Lilium Jet, is seen preparing to land after taking flight in new footage released by the firm.

To address the production issue, Lilium has opened a new 3,000-square meter factory by its Munich headquarters, and plans to build a new facility on the same site. That will help the firm build “hundreds” of jets a year by the time its air taxi service launches, Gerber said. It also recently hired a former Airbus executive, Yves Yemsi, to oversee the Lilium Jet aircraft program.

A recent TechCrunch report said Lilium was in talks with investors to raise between $400 million and $500 million. Gerber declined to comment on the report, adding Lilium is “very well capitalized” at the moment but will “eventually” seek another funding round. The company has so far raised about $100 million to date from backers including China’s Tencent and the London-based venture capital firm Atomico.

Various companies have been showing off new air taxi concepts, with Uber, Boeing, Airbus, German start-up Volocopter and Chinese firm Ehang all vying to launch passenger drones. Volocopter on Monday showed off an air taxi terminal in Singapore which it built with London-based Skyports.

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Anyone planning on being around Richmond on Dec 11th that can report on how it went?


World's first all-electric commercial plane set for takeoff in Richmond

Vancouver-based Harbour Air is getting set for its own version of Kittyhawk on Dec. 11 when founder and CEO Greg McDougall takes to the skies over Richmond for the inaugural test flight of the world's first fully electric commercial aircraft.

"The whole process has been exciting and fun because it's something that hasn't been done before," said McDougall. "But at the end of the day there's a financial and economic and environmental goal here, and those are the things that are really important to me."


McDougall will be flying solo in a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver float plane that has been retrofitted with a 750 horsepower electric motor.

The plan is to take off from the middle arm of the Fraser River, head west toward Terra Nova Point in Richmond before circling back and landing where he started. 

The entire flight will take only 10 minutes, but the repercussions could last long into the future.

"We already know the electric propulsion system works," said McDougall. "What that aircraft will be pioneering is the regulatory framework to actually be able to carry passengers on electrified flight. Nobody's done that before."

Harbour Air is planning to test the world's first fully electric commercial aircraft on Dec. 11 in Richmond. (Harbour Air)

If all goes well, McDougall figures it will take about two years to have his e-plane certified for commercial use. 

A quick scan of the internet shows that airlines around the world are working on electric propulsion innovations to reduce green house gas emissions and save on fuel costs.

McDougall says the possibility of e-planes has intrigued him for years, but it wasn't until he connected with Washington state propulsion company MagniX that the dream started to become real.

He says besides financing, the biggest hurdle to getting the e-plane off the ground was figuring out the best batteries for flying. His team settled on a NASA-approved lithium ion system that was used on the space station.

"Those actually have less capacity than what is available currently on the market in terms of watt hours per kilogram, so it actually reduces our flight times. But we wanted to go with something that had a NASA standard to it," said McDougall.

Like fossil fuel burning aircraft, e-planes are required to have a reserve of power above and beyond what is needed to get to a destination.

Harbour Air founder Greg McDougall announces plans to create an all-electric commercial seaplane fleet in Vancouver on March 26, 2019 (Yvette Brend CBC)

The weight of the batteries currently means an e-plane can only fly so far. But just like the evolution in electric cars, advances in technology are rapidly solving the problem. 

"The [battery] technology today will do for a certain length of flight, but that will be changing as we work through the timeframe of the regulatory process, and the forecast is that we will easily be able to achieve our destinations with a paying load," said McDougall.

Harbour Air flies between the Lower Mainland, Seattle, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Whistler.

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