Hydrogen-electric seaplanes for sigthseeing Canary Islands

A new Spanish operator, Surcar Airlines , is planning to retrofit Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter seaplanes with ZeroAvia’s 600kW ZA600 fuel cell engines to enable zero-emission sightseeing flights in the Canary Islands. It signed an agreement for this with British-American start-up ZeroAvia.

ZeroAvia just announced the completion of its initial prototype ZA600 flight testing campaign at Cotswold Airport in the UK, part of the final homologation process for the technology to be used on nine to 19-seater aircraft. As this will be completed no sooner than 2024-2025, Surcar will first offer sightseeing tours with conventional Twin Otters.

Incredible natural beauty

“Millions visit each year to see the incredible natural beauty and world heritage sites here in the Canary Islands,” founder and CEO of Surcar Airlines Gerardo Morales-Hierro, a Canarian Island entrepreneur, says.

“Climate change threatens this and our way of life. Working with ZeroAvia will help us to deliver cleaner flights while also fostering positive impacts on the local community and the environment.”

Gerardo Morales-Hierro is backed by several investors, including Danish carrier Nordic Seaplanes. The latter is a Danish airline that operates a scheduled daily passenger route by seaplane between the ports of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark, since 2016. They are also looking into adding electric planes to their fleet.

1 500 orders worldwide

Hydrogen-electric engines use hydrogen in fuel cells to generate electricity, which is then used to power electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers. The only emission is low-temperature water, with studies showing above 90 percent total climate effect reduction, ZeroAvia claims.

ZeroAvia acquired two twin-engine, 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft from Guernsey’s regional airline Aurigny and AMC Aviation, which used the planes on regional services. They are converted with fuel cell-powered engines and are used to certify them for commercial use from 2024.

The Hyflyer II test and demonstration planes – one stationed in Kemble (UK) and one at the company’s site in Hollister (California) – are retrofitted with two 600-kW electric engines and fuel cells. They have a tank capacity of 100 kg of compressed hydrogen, giving the planes a range of 500 nautical miles.

The company says it has already received 1 500 orders worldwide for the ZA600 model and is working on a more powerful 2,4 MW propulsion system for a 78-seater Bombardier CRF 700 aircraft.


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