Due to land in 2026.

That’s according to Blenheim-based Sounds Air, which will be the first airline in Australasia to fly Sweden-based Heart Aerospace’s electric passenger aircraft – the ES-19. The airline expects to take delivery of at least three of the new in-development ES-19s by 2026.

As a recent Sounds Air press release says: “It is so easy to say ‘too hard’ or ‘not in my lifetime’, but Sounds Air says ‘if not us – then who’?” 

The company committed to converting to an all-electric fleet just over a year ago when it signed a letter of intent to acquire the aircraft from Heart.

United Airlines, one of the world’s largest carriers, has now also signed on as a launch partner for the ES-19 via an order for 100 planes. As did US regional airline Mesa Air Group, while Finnair has signed up to purchase up to 20. These commitments and serious investor support for Heart Aerospace give confidence that the company will ‘deliver the goods’ by 2026. 

The company’s website claims that the 19-seater ES-19’s electric motors will not produce any operational emissions, will reduce fuel costs by 50-75%, and drop maintenance costs by 90% compared to turboprops. The aircraft will have a maximum range of up to 400 km (using today’s lithium-ion batteries) and will be able to operate on 750-metre runways. And for passenger comfort … less vibration and noise.

An obvious electric ‘hop’ for Sounds Air would be Blenheim and Nelson to Wellington, and the company has begun talks with Wellington Airport on logistics, including the need for electric chargers that cost US$500,000.

BayBuzz asked Stuart Ainslie, HB Airport for a prediction as to when the first electric plane might land here. His somewhat reluctant reply: “I wouldn’t want to make a prediction but 5-7 years perhaps closer to 5.” He added: “Alternate fuels and hydrogen will most likely leap frog electric, but they’ll certainly have a place on shorter routes offering greater economies of scale.”

Stuart says the Airport’s solar farm will be awaiting, able to power the 1MW charger needed to ‘refuel’ the plane in 40 minutes.

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