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United secures 100 electric aircraft for short-haul regional flights

written by Isabella Richards | July 14, 2021
Conceptual image of Heart Aerospace’s ES-19 electric aircraft (United Airlines)

United Airlines has signed an agreement with Swedish startup Heart Aerospace to purchase 100 of its ES-19 aircraft for short-haul flights.

The 19-seat aircraft has the potential to fly passengers up to 250 miles and is expected to launch by 2026.

The airline’s venture capital fund, United Airlines Ventures (UAV), has made the investment alongside regional partner Mesa Airlines and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV).

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UAV is developing a portfolio of companies that focus on sustainability, as the company has committed to 100 per cent reduced carbon emissions by 2050.

Carmichael Roberts from BEV said that while aviation is important to our global economy, it is a “major source of carbon emissions” and one of the hardest to reduce.

He believes electric aircraft is the answer to that problem, enabling a low-cost and clean way of operating regional flights.

“We expect the short-haul regional air travel market to play a key role in the evolution of the electric aircraft,” Michael Leskinen, United’s vice-president of corporate development and investor relations, and UAV’s president, said.

“As battery technology improves, larger-gauge aircraft should become viable, but we’re not going to wait to begin the journey.”

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Heart Aerospace is based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and was founded in 2018 as part of the Y Combinator accelerator program the following year.

Finnair signaled interest in the ES-19 aircraft in March this year and will potentially acquire 20 of them for the airline’s short routes.

The announcement follows United’s accumulating investments into more jets and future aviation businesses in response to the pandemic.

Last month, the airline  placed a mammoth order of 200 Boeing 737 MAX jets and 70 of Airbus’ equivalent narrow-body A321neo.

The Boeing order includes 150 of the not-yet-certified 737-10, the largest variant of the MAX family, as well as 50 classic 737-8 jets.

Earlier in June, United also struck a deal with Denver-based Boom Supersonic for the purchase of 15 of its supersonic commercial passenger jets, worth over US$3 billion.

The penned deal will see United Airlines welcome 15 Boom “Overture” passenger aircraft, once certified and operational, with an option to take on an additional 35 of the supersonic aircraft.

The company’s second-quarter results are yet to be announced, but it saw a net loss of US$2.4 billion in the first quarter, exceeding forecast expectations.

The company hopes to achieve 45 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity in the second quarter.

3 Comments

  • anonymous

    says:

    Don’t get me wrong this is ground breaking, but I will never fly on an electric aircraft, I barely trust electric cars as it is. as a lot of customers will be annoyed when it is inevitable that throughout departure lounges you will hear “we apologies for the delay, just waiting on the plane to recharge”.

    • Adrian P

      says:

      No different to me waiting in a delayed QANTAS A380 while it was being refueled.
      Also these electric aircraft are likely to have a reduced noise footprint, as cities become quieter noise from existing technology aircraft will become more noticeable. I think this is part of the problem with recent noise complaints to Brisbane Airport, in that aircraft flying established routes have become noticeable with the reduction in city ambient noise levels from decreased activity due to Covid.

  • Td

    says:

    Maybe a hybrid type of aircraft is the go as any holding will soon chew up electrons. Let’s also hope no lightning strike will blow up the batteries as it ll certainly be a clean quick ending for everyone.

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