After expressing its appetite for supersonic aircraft from Boom on June 3 and for 270 state-of-the-art Boeing MAX and Airbus A321neo’s on June 29, United Airline’s hunger for more still hasn’t been satisfied. So on another Tuesday, it has announced its intention today to buy 100 electric 19-seaters from start-up Heart Aerospace. Oh, and by the way, its regional partner Mesa Airlines also wants 100. United and Mesa orders boost for Heart.
Gothenburg (Sweden-based) Heart Aerospace has been quietly developing its battery-powered ES-19 twin-engine high-decker since 2018. The start-up OEM received a major boost, when Finnair announced a Letter of Intent in March for twenty aircraft, with first deliveries in 2026.
Now, it has been spotted by United. Through its venture capital fund United Airlines Ventures, the airline has made a $35 million investment in Heart. This complements UAV’s portfolio in other emerging companies that could have an impact on the way travel will develop in the coming years.
Part of the investment is a purchase agreement for 100 ES-19s, but this is conditional to the type meeting United’s safety, business, and operating requirements. Interestingly, United used the same words in its press release on the order for fifty Boom Overtures.
United’s investment in Heart is a joint one with Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV). This venture fund was established in 2016 and invests in companies that can significantly reduce emissions in the agriculture, buildings, manufacturing, transportation, and electricity business. BEV refers to the Heart ES-19 as a “viable electric airliner”, which reflects the confidence it has in the success of the OEM.
“Heart’s visionary team is developing an aircraft around its proprietary electric motor technology that will allow airlines to operate at a fraction of the cost of today and has the potential to change the way we fly”, BEV’s Carmichael Roberts said. The investment in Heart has also been supported by Luxemburg-based seed investor EQT Ventures and Lowercarbon Capital, formed by former venture capitalists.
Mesa to operate the ES-19 on its regional network
The third major party involved in the agreement is United’s regional airline partner Mesa Airlines. Like United, it has committed to buying 100 ES-19s and plans to operate them on its regional network. United has identified over 100 routes out of its hubs that are suitable for the Heart electric plane, which has a range of some 400 kilometers. Like Chicago-Purdue or San Francisco-Modesto. Mesa currently has a fleet of 80 Embraer E170s and 64 Mitsubishi CRJ 900s, plus three Boeing 737NGs, but has a strong history of operating 19-seaters.
Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein said: “These technological innovations are good for the environment, will expand the national transportation system, and provide significant growth opportunities for Mesa. We look forward to reconnecting with communities and passengers we previously served.”
Mock-up of the 19-seat Heart ES-19. (Heart Aerospace)
“We expect the short-haul regional air travel market to play a key role in the evolution of the electric aircraft. As battery technology improves, larger-gauge aircraft should become viable but we’re not going to wait to begin the journey,” says Michael Leskinen, United’s Vice President Corporate Development & Investor Relations says in a media statement. “That’s why we’re looking forward to beginning our work with Heart, so that, together, we can scale the availability of electric airliners and use them for passenger flights within the next five years.”
The United and Mesa orders are a boost for Heart. ”I can’t imagine a stronger coalition of partners to advance our mission to electrify short-haul air travel.” Heart CEO Anders Forslund says. “There’s BEV – the world’s most influential climate fund. There’s United – one of the world’s largest airlines, who’s poised to be the global leader in decarbonizing air travel, and there’s Mesa, the largest operator of 19-seater aircraft in history. This combination of near-term commercial viability and long-term climate investment philosophy is exactly what we need to make commercial electric air travel a reality ”.
After the announcement, the Heart website was temporary out of business.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.