Happy Earth Day! It has been quite a while since we provided an update on our electric journey, mostly because our team has been focused on navigating the ever-changing path to certification for an all-electric aircraft. When we last posted, we had just completed our first point-to-point flight.
Since that amazing day, there have been many twists and turns on our path to certification. As we attempt to take the path never traveled before, overcoming challenges is very common in the commercialization and certification of new and novel technologies. Nonetheless, we are committed to realizing our goal of becoming an electric commercial air operator.
Over the past few months, certifying the installation of components into an aircraft where no certification path exists has been difficult. Adding to the challenge has been using novel engine and battery technology. Incorporating the elements of software and electronic control systems makes it increasingly difficult. The result? Despite everyone’s best efforts there are significant delays in the program that have recently come to light. Part of the delay in our updates has been due to us trying to understand the issues that have arisen, and the resulting consequences to the program.
Fundamentally, the technology has been outpacing the regulators. When this happens there is a risk that the regulators come to a different conclusion or interpretation. One such situation occurred when an assumption was made throughout the industry that an electric engine is equivalent to a reciprocating engine when it comes to system safety analysis and single fault tolerance to a loss of power control (LOPC). However, we since learned that the regulators will require a system safety analysis for a single electric engine installation to meet the reliability requirements, and that it must be single fault tolerant to an LOPC event. Additionally, the regulators will also be issuing a definition of what LOPC means for an electric engine later this month, as it will be different than that of an internal combustion engine.
So, what does that all mean? Considering the regulators have spent a year determining how LOPC applies to an electric engine, the result means that many companies working in this sector are revisiting their architecture to meet this requirement. Furthermore, given the ongoing supply chain issues with electronic components, changing what was thought to be a frozen design, comes with significant delays.
The next steps for the eBeaver:
- We are changing from the magni350 electric propulsion unit to the magni650 electric propulsion unit for ePlane 2.0. This will allow us to meet the LOPC requirements at the aircraft level.
- The entire engine and energy storage system installation is being evaluated to meet the higher reliability requirements.
- Our ground running certification prototype will be built early next year.
- ePlane 2.0 will likely fly later next year.
- The regulators do not expect to achieve harmonization on the battery requirements until late 2024, which means certification of battery components will occur in 2025.
- Certification of the magni650 is expected in mid 2025, which means certification for the installation on the eBeaver will fall after that date.
In the meantime, ePlane 1.0 will continue to fly and provide valuable data for the team on the effects on flight handling qualities and operational considerations. The importance of this prototype cannot be understated, as the lessons learned from this aircraft will allow us to design and build a superior product that meets certification requirements.
With over 70 test flights performed and crucial data gained, we’ve developed a better understanding of the behaviour, advantages, and limitations of a fully electric system, allowing us to determine certification compliance items. From this data we can understand our performance targets, decreasing the risk of validation flight testing later in the program.
The more we can run this system and gather data, the more we can predict behaviour. We’re also able to provide feedback to our partners, to help inform their design decisions moving forward.
We are buzzing to share that ePlane 1.0 is taking off on a Spring ePlane Tour celebrating Earth Day! Starting with its first trip to downtown Vancouver for Earth day, April 22nd, followed by a stop on Salt Spring Island May 5-6 to participate in Electrify Salt Spring, and onward to Victoria Harbour on May 7-8, subject to suitable weather conditions. More details about these events can be viewed here.
Sign up to our ePlane updates to be the first to know, and stay tuned to our social media and website for further information on how you can participate in these events! We can’t wait to see you there!
Until next time…
Harbour Air’s ePlane Team