A radial engine Beaver operated by Harbour Air takes off on one of the company's 30,000 annual flights. The airline plans to eventually convert all its planes to electric motors (Harbour Air)

World’s first electric powered commercial seaplane test today

What is claimed to be the world’s first commercial electric powered plane will take off in British Columbia today.  The first test flight is expected to fly for about an hour.

Developed in conjunction with the firm MagniX in Washington, the Vancouver-based  Harbour Air which operates a fleet of floatplanes says it wants to become the first all-electric commercial airline. Harbour Air flies some 12 short haul routes with its 40 seaplanes carrying about 400,000 passengers a year.

Many of the world’s DH-2 Beavers and the slightly larger DHC-3 Otters (shown), have been upgraded to a more powerful turbo-prop engine like this. The E-motor is said to provide even greater power still, but battery technology will limit range somewhat. As most of the world’s flights are short haul-less than 1,000km-, this should not be a drawback (Harbour Air)

The first in what could be a future line of aircraft has taken one of the world’s most popular “bush” planes, the DeHavilland Beaver and retrofitted it with an electric motor.

A MagniX 350hp motor mounted to a Cessna fixed test bed (magniX)

The challenges of electric power have seemingly been overcome with the motor, which has to have the necessary horsepower and torque and at low rpm. While originally the Beaver had a 450hp radial engine when it first appeared in 1947, the common current upgrade to turbo prop engine boosted that to about 680 hp. The MagniX motor is said to develop 750 hp, over 2,000 lb/ft of torque (2,800Nm), and at a low 1,900 rpm meaning direct drive to the prop.

Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air Seaplanes. “Through our commitment to making a positive impact on people’s lives, the communities where we operate and the environment, we are once again pushing the boundaries of aviation by becoming the first commercial aircraft to be powered by electric propulsion. We are excited to bring commercial electric aviation to the Pacific Northwest, turning our seaplanes into ePlanes.”

The Harbour Air Beaver undergoing conversion. (harbour Air)

If successful, electric flight would have many advantages including reduced noise with no fuel costs and reduced maintenance needs there would be greatly lowered operational costs. The limit to electric planes is the present battery technology which limits the range to about 1,000 kilometres. But as almost half of daily flights around the world are short haul of 1,000 kilometres or less, there could be a vast future for electric powered planes.

Technicians preparing the E-motor conversion, which is expected to take its first test flight today. (Harbour Air)

There is said to be about 200 electric plane designs underway, with an Israeli company Eviation has a 9 passenger trimotor electric plane which it showed at the Paris Air Show this summer but which had not been tested or certified at the time.

Harbour Air E-plane promo video


The electric plane took off successfully this morning in front of a crowd of onlookers for a short flight of just a few minutes before landing again. It’s expected it will take about two years of testing and verification before the e-plane is allowed to take passengers.

The e-plane took off from the Fraser River and flew over Richmond, B.C., for about three minutes before landing in front of onlookers and assembled media. (Harbour Air)

Perhaps the first electric flight of an amphibious aircraft was Dale Kramer’s Lazair mono-float ultralight in 2011. Based on his older successful Lazair design, this was an experimental model with no production planned. Lazair production ended in the mid 1980’s.

Dale Kramer’s award winning Lazair ultralight in amphibious design with two electric motors (2011- Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer- YouTube)

Additional information-sources

Categories: Economy, Environment, International, Internet, Science and Technology
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


5 comments on “World’s first electric powered commercial seaplane test today
  1. Avatar Dale Kramer says:

    As far as your definition of a ‘commercial’ aircraft goes, I think that with your definition of a commercial aircraft, that you may call the 1903 Wright Flyer aircraft ( https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/1903-wright-flyer ) the worlds first commercial aircraft, since many years later, Wright aircraft seem to have been used to deliver airmail ( https://www.ncpedia.org/airmail-service )…

  2. Avatar Dale Kramer says:

    Marc, that false claim has gone so viral that I am afraid that my accomplishment in 2011 will get lost in the modern internet news frenzy..

    Wouldn’t you rather be part of a story that tries to correct bad history?

    You may get more hits for that 😉

  3. Avatar Dale Kramer says:

    Please change all your bylines/text. This is not the worlds first electric seaplane… On July 19, 2019 the electric Lazair amphibian took off water…

    • Marc Montgomery Marc Montgomery says:

      Thank you, and agreed there have been and are other electric planes but this is the first electric “seaplane” and first “commercial” plane. The status of the Eviation plane, which would also possibly be a “commercial” plane is unknown at this time. The Harbour Air airline did complete a public test flight, both it and the Eviation plane would have to undergo a couple of years more testing before one becomes the first electric plane to fly paying customers.

      • Avatar Dale Kramer says:

        No, the Lazair electric seaplane is the first as far as I can tell, did you do a basic search?

        The corrected date for my first flight in the Lazair electric seaplane is, Jul 18, 2011..

        My fingers must have been shaking too much earlier today (after seeing such a statement made that was clearly not researched) when I typed the incorrect date..