A B.C. company is poised to become Canada’s first carrier of passengers and cargo using electric helicopter-like aircraft.
HeliJet on Tuesday (Oct. 31) announced from its Victoria heliport that it plans to add the cleaner-powered copters – known as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft – to its operations in the coming years.
The commercial helicopter company has ordered ALIA eVTOL aircraft, which can hold five passengers and a pilot, from Vermont’s electric aerospace company BETA Technologies.
“As travellers increasingly look to destinations and transportation options that reflect their own commitments to environmental responsibility, we believe eVTOL service in the region will positively benefit local businesses (and) our tourism sector,” said HeliJet CEO Danny Sitnam.
“The electric aircraft’s vertical take-off and landing capability will also have tremendous potential to enhance Helijet’s provision of emergency response, air ambulance and organ transfer services.”
Sitnam said HeliJet currently moves organs by helicopter and transits radioisotope tracers from Vancouver to Victoria and Kelowna. Soon those medicine-carrying trips will be done quieter, at a much lower cost and with no carbon footprint, the CEO said.
Premier David Eby called B.C. a “quiet champion” when it comes to the aerospace industry, as he alluded to Kelowna and Abbotsford businesses. The premier added the electric helicopter tech can help improve life in First Nation, rural and other remote communities where fuel and maintenance costs make it expensive to deliver necessities with internal combustion vehicles.
“What Danny and team at HeliJet are doing here is the level of innovation and response to the challenges around climate change that our province is known for,” Eby said.
The electric airliners are about 10 times quieter than a traditional helicopter, according to BETA sales director Skye Carapetyan. His company wants to help address climate change by decarbonizing aviation.
“In addition to its net-zero emissions, the electric, simple design of our aircraft also offers more reliability and lower costs,” Carapetyan said.
For an organization that upholds the federal mandate to expedite Canada’s transition to zero-emission aviation by 2050, Tuesday’s announcement was a “monumental leap forward.”
“This journey has put British Columbia and Canada on the map globally for our thought leadership and unified voice toward the social, economic and environmental pillars we demand as part of our advanced air mobility future,” said JR Hammond, Canadian Advanced Air Mobility’s executive director.
HeliJet procuring the electric aircraft is a tangible commitment to advanced air mobility operation in Canada, Hammond added.
As he touted other moves on zero-carbon transportation while fielding media questions, Eby was asked about BC Ferries scaling back electrification plans for its Island Class vessels. The plan to convert six ferries to being fully battery-powered was contingent on provincial funding that hasn’t been allocated.
“We’re working closely with BC Ferries to hit not just carbon targets but also customer service targets and pricing targets for British Columbians. There’s an issue around charging capacity at BC Ferries terminals that we’re working on with BC Ferries,” Eby said.
The premier said the ferry operator has the ability to be a climate leader in its marine industry and battery technology from a Richmond firm could help it get there.