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Australia’s Regional Express Moves to Electrify Turboprop Aircraft
Australian airline Regional Express announced on July 21, 2022, it will be forming a partnership with Dovetail Electric Aviation in an effort to lead the way in converting turboprop aircraft to full electric propulsion.
Collaborating together, and operating under the Dovetail brand, the two will work to develop and certify the retrofitting of regional and general aviation aircraft, with Rex providing both a test bed and its resources for that development. The move is well suited for Rex, with its regional airline base an ideal starting point for commercial electric aviation.
According to the airline’s Deputy Chairman, John Sharp, the collaboration means Rex will be “at the forefront of developments in sustainable regional aviation,” adding that it will play a part in helping “national efforts in achieving the target of net zero emissions by 2050.”
Short Sectors To Be Electrified First
Given the fact that first-generation electric aircraft will have short-range capabilities, Rex and Dovetail’s owner Sydney Aviation Holdings are well situated for early adoption of electric propulsion systems. In addition to Rex’s regional routes, Sydney Aviation Holdings’ sightseeing company Sydney Seaplanes will also offer opportunities for electric aircraft.
Speaking of the possibilities the new partnership offers, Sharp stated: “Australia, with its very high utilisation of regional aviation and large number of aircraft capable of conversion, is a perfect incubator for the electric aviation industry. Significantly lower operating costs of electric aircraft will also help to stimulate regional aviation services between communities not currently served by scheduled flights.”
In contrast to the concept, design and implementation of brand new electric aircraft, Dovetail believes the conversion of turbine aircraft to electric propulsion systems offers faster certification, along with improved costs. With this efficiency, Dovetail estimates converted aircraft can achieve certification in four years, compared to an estimated eight to ten years for brand new aircraft.
Dovetail will convert aircraft with MagniX propulsion systems, operating with battery packs and hydrogen fuel cells. Founded in Australia in 2005, MagniX propulsion systems are designed with redundancy in mind, with an allowance for failure of at least one section of its 3-phase architecture. Additionally, the flat torque curve of electric motors means high torque can be produced at low RPM, eliminating the need for gearboxes and, in turn, removing the costs usually associated with their maintenance.
The conversions are estimated by Dovetail to reduce noise by 30-40%, as well as reduced operating costs by approximately 40%.
Sharp concluded: “We are delighted to partner with Sydney Seaplanes and Dante Aeronautical (also owned by Sydney Aviation Holdings) in Dovetail Electric Aviation and to lend our aviation and engineering expertise to advance its progress, while also accelerating Rex’s journey to a zero emissions future.”
Australia’s Best Performing Domestic Airline
The month of June saw Rex continue its reign of reliability among domestic airlines, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE). Having lowered its cancellation rates from May’s 1.4% to just 0.7%, Rex has improved its departure and arrival reliability with 82.7% of departures on time and 80.0% of arrivals on time, an additional improvement when compared to the month of May.
The statistics continue to paint a damning picture of Qantas – the Flying Kangaroo – with its group’s reliability dropping to 58.7% for departures and 59.4% for arrivals. In terms of cancellations, Qantas crept up to 7.5%.
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