Harbor Air completes 72km electric seaplane flight

While Harbor Air recently completed a safe first round trip with its ePlane test aircraft, here are some facts about Harbor Air, the ePlane and the historic moment.

The plane

The Harbor Air test ePlane is a de Havilland of Canada Beaver, C-FJOS. The Beaver airframe was completed in early 1957, but the original Pratt & Whitney P-985 Wasp Junior radial piston engine was replaced with a 750 hp (559 kW) Magni500 Magnix electric powerplant.

The first flight with this new Magni500 engine took place on December 10, 2019. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the test flight program has slowed down.


Also note that magniX has since upgraded its engines and has an 850 hp (640 kW) magni650. The machines are designed to not require a gearbox and are configured to handle a short circuit, giving the pilot enough power to complete the flight safely. Additionally, the intent is to fly commercially with the upgraded engine.

Harbor Air decided to embark on this effort in the words of its CEO and founder Greg McDougall:

“If we’re sitting here staring out the window, one day there will be something flying out there that will rock your world. I want to be the one driving it, not the one watching it.

About Harbor Air

Harbor Air is a seaplane airline. This is a December 2018 photo of their base in Vancouver, BC. Photo: Joe Kunzler | single flight

Harbor Air is a company born the same year as the author – 1982 – with two seaplanes with two pilots in Coal Harbor of Vancouver, British Columbia (BC) to serve the forestry industry. According to Harbor Air’s website, the airline has more than 40 aircraft and more than 400 workers, serving commuters and tourists with scheduled flights, charters and sightseeing tours. Harbor Air flies de Havilland of Canada Beavers, Otters and Twin Otters as well as a few Cessna Caravans carrying an average of over 500,000 passengers per year, serving 11 scheduled destinations. Harbor Air operates more than 30,000 flights a year and cargo in total, but daytime only.

The airline attaches great importance to sustainability. For example, Harbor Air has been carbon neutral since 2007. It helps when Harbor Air has worked with Offsetters Climate Solutions since 2007 and its Victoria Harbor Airport base has a 1-acre green roof.

This is, of course, before Harbor Air began work to convert one of its de Haviland Beaver aircraft from a petroleum-powered radial internal combustion engine to an all-electric aircraft.

The return flight to the BC Aviation Museum

The flight to Victoria was 72 kilometers/45 miles long and took approximately 24 minutes. Then the return flight on August 22, 2022 was also a success. This Vancouver-Victoria route is the number one route for the airline, eliminating hours for passengers rather than leaving one downtown, taking a ferry, and then traveling to the other downtown.

Thus, the ability to fly safely to the BC Aviation Museum Open House at Victoria International Airport and back is an important step towards Harbor Air’s goal of commercializing a battery-electric aircraft by summer 2024. The BC Aviation Museum houses an extensive collection of aircraft, from a Lancaster bomber being restored to a scale model Spitfire to a Vickers “Viscount” 757. There are many more aircraft in the group – and quite a few model airplanes. Additionally, the BC Aviation Museum campus is a good location for Victoria International Airport aircraft spotting operations, as the author knows during a November 2018 visit.

Will you board a battery electric plane? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments please.

About Theresa Burton

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