Canadian seaplane operator Harbour Air has signalled its intention to purchase 50 electric propulsion systems from US developer Magnix, a move supporting the airline’s goal of creating a fleet of all-electric De Havilland Canada aircraft.

Harbour Air and Magnix disclosed a letter of intent on 22 April for the purchase of 50 Magni650 electric motors.

“Magnix’s electric propulsion units will be used to electrify Harbour Air’s fleet, beginning with the De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver in 2026,” the companies add. “The Magni650s will also be used for third-party conversions.”


Source: Harbour Air

Harbour Air has been test flying an all-electric DHC-2 Beaver powered by a Magnix propulsion system

Vancouver-based Harbour Air has for several years been working toward an ambitious goal of achieving certification of a modified DHC-2 Beaver powered entirely by an all-electric propulsion system supplied by Everett, Washington-based Magnix. Harbour Air aims to one day operate a fleet of the so-called eBeavers.

“We are excited to accelerate the adoption of electric aviation technology and further our journey towards a sustainable future”, says Harbour Air chief executive Bert van der Stege. “The agreement with Magnix underscores our commitment to revolutionise commercial aviation with electric propulsion.”

Harbour Air sees its network – mostly composed of roughly 30min flights from Vancouver to surrounding communities – as ideal for battery-powered flight.

In 2019, in unveiling its all-electric plans, the airline’s founder and then-chief executive Greg McDougall predicted Harbour Air eBeavers would be certificated and flying passengers within several years.

The company immediately went to work modifying a prototype DHC-2 Beaver, replacing its Pratt & Whitney P-985 Wasp Junior piston engine with a lithium-battery powered 750hp (559kW) Magni500 electric power unit. Harbour Air flew that aircraft for the first time in December 2019. It has since completed 78 flights, Magnix says.

But the programme stalled during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in April 2023 Harbour Air disclosed more delays, saying it expected certification would not come until after mid-2025. Along the way, Harbour Air also ditched the Magni500 and shifted to using Magnix’s more-powerful 850hp Magni650 propulsion system.

Magnix calls the new letter of intent “a milestone in electric aviation and a significant next step in the industry-leading partnership between Magnix and Harbour Air”.

Though the companies say the Magni650s will be powering Harbour Air’s Beavers “beginning” in 2026, Harbour Air does not specify when it now expects to achieve certification and to begin passenger flights.

The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.