2019 will go down as the year that electrically powered aircraft became a serious issue. The Eviation Alice at the Paris airshow attracted more attention than was expected. It won a customer order.
But from where we are now to a practical application is much closer than people may realize. The 375HP motors powering the Alice comes from magniX, based out of Redmond, WA. The same motor maker is working on replacing the Pratt & Whitney radial engine on Harbor Air’s fleet with an electric 750HP motor. The first flight is planned before the end of this year. In other words, within the next 100 days.
The Pacific Northwest is the ideal place for the first commercial deployment of electrically power commercial flights. There are two big floatplane operators in the region. Harbor Air in Vancouver and Kenmore Air in Seattle. Both have big fleets of De Havilland Beavers (radials and turboprops). The Pratt & Whitney radials powering the Beavers is a 450HP motor. The magniX motor has 750HP and is much lighter.
What does this mean for performance? The magniX motor provides instant full torque and that means shorter takeoffs and quieter operations from the downtown airports these aircraft use. The electric-powered aircraft noise is only prop related. The (gorgeous to some) radial roar becomes a buzz.
As an example of why the Pacific Northwest is ideal, we have some data to share.
This data applies to Kenmore’s flights. Notice the average stage length. This is ideal for the magniX powered Beaver. Replacing the fuel tanks with batteries is an even weight swap the engine maker advises. Moreover, the magniX motor is lighter than the radial, so the aircraft is net weight lighter after the engine swap.
Given the number of flights, quieter Beavers are going to stay busy doing their work, but you’ll have to look out for them because you won’t hear them as much.