A DHC-2 Beaver, operated by the Canadian company Harbour Air and converted into an electric aircraft by the Australian manufacturer magniX, flew for a few minutes over the Fraser River, in British Columbia.

The ePlane is presented by its operator as the world's first all-electric commercial aircraft to fly. “Today, we made history,” said Greg McDougall, CEO and founder of Harbour Air Seaplanes, who piloted the seaplane himself for its maiden flight in front of hundreds of spectators. The plane took off from the Harbour Air Seaplanes terminal in Richmond and traveled for about 16 kilometers (10 miles).

The conversion of the 62-year-old airframe was made by magniX, which installed a 135-kg 750-horsepower (560 kW) propulsion system called magni500, unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June 2019. The current battery capabilities of the "e-Beaver" testbed give it a range of about 160 kilometers (100 miles), enough for Harbour Air to operate the majority of its flights. The aircraft can house six passengers.

A long way ahead

The ePlane will now enter a certification and approval campaign for both the propulsion system and the retrofitting of aircraft. Harbour Air expects to see magniX start converting the rest of its fleet within two years.

Harbour Air flies a fleet of 14 DHC-2 Beaver, 22 DHC-3 Otters, and 3 DHC-6 Twin Otters, making it the biggest seaplanes operator in Northern America. Its network links Vancouver and Seattle to destinations in the Pacific Northwest, carrying approximately 500,000 passengers each year.

The Australian manufacturer magniX develops electrical power systems for aircraft, including the magni250, for smaller aircraft. It participates in several other electric aircraft projects, including Alice, another electric fixed-wing being developed by the Israeli company Eviation Aircraft.

Credit: Harbour Air

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While the ePlane was the first electric commercial seaplane to take to the skies, the first flight of an electric amphibious aircraft happened some years ago. On July 18, 2011, Dale Kramer took off from his house in an experimental Lazair electric mono-float ultralight.