The Anonymous Widower

Watch First Electric Caravan Fly

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on AOPA.

As AOPA is the Aircraft Owners And Pilots Association, the caravan is a Cessna C208B Grand Caravan, which has been converted to electric power.

I have flown in a Cessna Caravan in Kenya, where it took me from Nairobi Airport to the Maasai Mara.

It is a typical workhorse all over the world carrying up to nine or thirteen passengers or freight.

  • They have a single turboprop engine.
  • The undercarriage is fixed and very sturdy.
  • Around 2,600 had been built by 2017.
  • It is used by a variety of operators.

I would certainly be happy to fly in one at any time, unlike some aircraft I could mention.

This paragraph from the article details how the maker of the electric motor;magniX is involved in electric flight.

The Grand Caravan is to be the largest, but not the first commercial aircraft magniX has converted to fly with 100 percent electric power. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, wrote in an email exchange that the de Havilland DHC–2 Beaver first flown in December continues its test flight program in Canada. Harbour Air, a short-haul air carrier with a fleet of seaplanes, is working with magniX to convert its fleet to all-electric power, and the same 750-hp electric motor that will power the upcoming Grand Caravan flight has been performing well in test flights over British Columbia.

Ganzarski is quoted as saying he is pleased with results to date.

The aircraft is lined up to make its first flight on May 28th, which hopefully will be shown on the Internet.

My flight in Kenya was only about half-an-hour and despite the Caravan having a range of nearly 2,000 kilometres, I suspect that many flights in the aircraft are of similar duration.

A Quick Battery Size Estimate

  • 750 hp is 560 kW.
  • So a half-hour flight on full power will use 280 kWh plus whatever is needed for aircraft systems like avionics, heating and air conditioning.
  • The Eviation Alice electric aircraft seats nine passengers and has a 900 kWh battery according to Wikipedia.

I  would suspect a 900 kWh battery should allow the Electric Caravan to do two half-hour trips.

The Future Of Electric Aviation

It is interesting to note, that four of the projects in designing and building a viable electric aircraft are in this nine-seater segment.

Note.

  • All except Eviation Alice, are conversions of proven high-wing aircraft with a fixed undercarriage.
  • Moderately large fleets available for conversion. – Beaver (1,600 plus built), Caravan (2,600) and Islander (700)
  • Conversion only needs a Supplemental Type Certificate, rather than full certification.
  • The DHC-2 Beaver prototype first flew on the day I was born, so it can’t be all bad.

A detailed insight into the reasons and the economics of converting an existing fleet of aircraft are given in a sub-section called Development in the Wikipedia entry for Project Fresson.

  • Scottish Airline Loganair appears to be the launch airline and will use the plane for their short flights around the Orkneys.
  • Several companies are involved in the development.
  • First flight is aimed for 2021.
  • Conversion kits could be available in 2022-2023.
  • It is hoped that operators would get a return on their money for the kit in 2-3 years.

Once they get the design right, there is talk of a nineteen-seat electric airliner.

I can see hundreds of converted electric Caravans and Islanders flying short routes by 2030.

 

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Flight Of A Commercial Electric Passenger Plane

This video has just been published.

Electricity is the future of aviation!

Initially, it will be smaller planes up to nine seats, like this DHC-2 Beaver and the Eviation Alice.

But I believe that we’ll be seeing Airbus A318-sized electric airliners by 2030.

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

The Electric Aviation Revolution Will Be Televised … By MagniX And Harbour Air

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on GeekWire.

These are a few points from the article.

  • The target date is December 11th.
  • The first flight could be delayed by weather.
  • Harbour Air’s CEO, Greg McDougall, will put his money where his mouth is and take the first test flight.
  • The first test flight will only be a few minutes.

I wish Greg McDougall all the best!

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Electric-Powered Passenger Aircraft To Launch By 2022

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Times.

In the past few months, two serious electric small airliner projects have emerged.

And now Cranfield University are launching Project Fresson, which aims to convert Britten-Norman Islanders to electric propulsion.

  • There are hundreds of Islanders in service.
  • They were designed in the 1960s and are still in production.
  • They can carry nine passengers for nearly 900 miles.

In some ways, they are the Ford Transit of the small airliner industry. Unspectacular they may be, but they do what it says in the specification.

I’ve only flown in an Islander twice and that was between islands in the Caribbean.

There are several things to like about this project.

  • Cranfield University have an excellent reputation in aerospace design.
  • The project is well-backed by the British Government, Rolls-Royce, the University of Warwick and others.
  • The batteries appear to be coming from motorsport.
  • The Islander doesn’t have a reputation as a difficult or unsafe aircraft.
  • Over the years, the aerodynamics seem to have been improved.
  • There must be a large number of airlines around the world, who are satisfied with their current Islanders and would look seriously at an electric version.
  • The Islander is still in production.

I don’t think it carries any high level of risk.

  • The current aircraft structure will be virtually unchanged, but possibly uprated for a higher payload because of the weight of the battery.
  • The electric motors must meet a power output, energy consumption and weight.
  • The battery will probably be made from lots of standard small cells from a well-respected manufacturer like Hitachi, Samsung, Leclanche or others.
  • The battery must hold enough energy, fit in a defined space and not be too heavy.

I suspect Cranfield have already written the specifications for the motors and the battery.

Conclusion

In some ways this project has a lot in common with Harbour Air’s project to convert a Beaver.

  • Simple engineering with little risk.
  • Proven airframe.
  • No expensive airframe to certify.
  • A lot of engine and battery testing can be done safely on the ground.
  • Electric motor technology seems to be improving rapidly, with new ideas cropping up in trains, cars, boats, ships and planes.
  • A waiting market.
  • I think pilots and passengers will like the idea of an electric aircraft.
  • Pilot conversion to the electric plane will not be a long and expensive process.
  • Good green credentials.

I think both projects will succeed, if they go well in the next year or so.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Harbour Air Installs Electric Engine Into ‘Prototype’ Seaplane

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Pique Magazine.

It is as must-read as it gives the thoughts of engineers working on Harbour Air‘s project to create an electric seaplabe, by the conversion of a DHC-2 Beaver.

Will I see an electric aircraft in my lifetime?

If ten years ago, someone had asked me, if battery-powered trains would appear in my lifetime, I would have been sceptical.

But in the last four years, I have ridden in at least two battery powered trains and lived to tell the tale!

So I not only feel that I will see a news film of a small electric airliner carrying around a dozen passengers, but I suspect I’ll be able to fly in one in the UK.

Surely, the ultimate destination for an electric aircraft would be Barra Airport, where airliners land on a sandy tidal beach.

November 9, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Harbour Air Set To Become The First All-Electric Airline In The World

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Aerotime Hub.

This sounds a tough call, but someone will do it, even if it happens sometime in the second half of the 21st Century.

This is taken from the Wikipedia entry for Harbour Air Seaplanes.

Today, Harbour Air refers to itself as the world’s largest all-seaplane airline and became North America’s first carbon neutral airline.

They have a fleet of forty seaplanes and Wikipedia doesn’t list any incidents.

Wikipedia also says this.

In March of 2019, Harbour Air announced a partnership with magniX to electrify the entire Harbour Air fleet. The two companies are planning to begin tests in late 2019; the first converted aircraft will be a DHC-2 Beaver.

Could this well-respected Canadian seaplane operator achieve its goal of an all-electric airline?

I feel that they will certainly achieve a successful test flight, although as countless aircraft have shown, time scales may not be as originally planned.

I’ll start with the DHC-2 Beaver, one of which will be converted to the prototype electric aircraft.

  • First flight of the design was on the 16th of August 1947, which as it was the day I was born, must be a good omen!
  • Over 1,600 were built during twenty years of production.
  • In the past they have been flown by various military and civil operators.

In the Wikipedia entry, under Operational History, this is a paragraph.

The original Wasp Jr radial engine of the Beaver is long out of production, so repair parts are getting harder to find. Some aircraft conversion stations have addressed this problem by replacing the piston engine with a turboprop engine such as the PT6. The added power and lighter installed weight, together with greater availability of kerosene fuel instead of high-octane aviation gasoline, make this a desirable modification, but at a high financial cost.

Consider.

  • Fitting of new engines  has been regularly done to aircraft to extend their operational lives or to increase performance or reliability.
  • So why not change the power unit for environmental reasons?
  • The MagniX electric motor chosen for the trial appears to offer a weight saving.

I believe that provided the mathematics and engineering are correct, that the Wasp Junior piston engine, which dates from 1929, could be replaced with a modern electric motor of the right power level.

How many extra passengers would be drawn to fly in a zero-carbon electric aircraft, which was powered by electricity from renewable sources?

November 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment