Loganair bids to be pioneer of electric aircraft

Scottish airline Loganair hopes to spearhead the use of electric aircraft within three years.

The regional carrier is working with experts in a bid to make the electric flights a reality by 2021.

Services in Orkney, which includes the shortest scheduled flight in the world, could start to use electric-powered aircraft.

Loganair’s Orkney island-hopping air service is famous for the 1.7-mile flight between Westray and Papa Westray

The Islander aircraft used could be modified rather than developing a model from scratch.

It takes about two minutes – including taxiing – to complete the 1.7 mile Westray-Papa Westray hop, which is about the same length as the runway at Edinburgh airport. The record is 53 seconds.

The short inter-island services are seen as ideal possible routes for electric planes as a limitation of the aircraft would be their range.

Inter-island routes via Kirkwall on mainland Orkney also serve Sanday, Stronsay, Eday and North Ronaldsay.

Loganair is working with Bedfordshire-based Cranfield Aerospace on the project, and the airline believes it could be the first to introduce electric planes on a passenger service.

Cranfield chief executive Paul Hutton told the BBC Scotland news website: “We have been looking into new propulsion technology to make aircraft more environmentally friendly.

“The challenge is getting the technology into a place that’s suitable for commercial service.

“Very short flights is where the idea came from. There is also a huge amount of renewables in that part of the country.”

Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles reportedly said: “It might end up being the first in the world. I’m not aware of any companies with similar plans at the moment, although there may be someone working out there that could do it before us.

“Orkney is a fantastic place to start this kind of development because the islands are well known for the leading role they have taken in renewable energy and embracing new developments in the sector.”

He said the idea was being supported by Orkney Islands Council, on whose behalf Loganair operates the inter-island service.

Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan said: “This is a community with a strong track record when it comes to innovation and I am pleased that this pioneering project looks set to be developed in Orkney.

“Our inter-island air service provides a lifeline for our more remote communities and is subsidised by the council. We are keen to see if this project could significantly reduce the amount of expensive aviation fuel required to run the service – and, most importantly, if this can be done safely. That will always be our paramount consideration.”