eCaravan: a tidbit

eCaravan, an electrified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, awaiting its first test flight (Photo: MagniX)

On 2020-05-28 aviation history was made, with the first 30 m test flight of an eCaravan, an electrified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The eCaravan was modified in Goldcoast, Queensland, Australia by Magnix, so that it is powered by a 560 kW magni500 all-electric propulsion system with a 1 tonne, 750V lithium-ion battery. The flight consumed $6 worth of electricity, needing 30-40 min of charging.

The electric aircraft propulsion company MagniX worked with engineering and flight test specialist AeroTEC on this project. In its current state, the Magni500-powered plane can fly 160 km with 4 or 5 passengers while keeping reserve power. The companies are aiming for a certification by the end of 2021.

In a slightly more distant future, the companies hope to offer machines capable of operating 160 km flights with reserve capacity, and a full load of nine passengers. The longer term goal is to enable 800 km flights, which account for about 45% of all flights flown in the world. Some decades ago, smaller commuter airlines operated such routes. The general aircraft operating these routes disappeared because they were economically unviable. They were replaced by larger, more complex regional jets. Electric aircraft could provide the economic characteristics that make such routes feasible again. However, it is the relatively low energy density of batteries that has constrained the range and payload of electric aircraft. Magnix is studying other technologies, including lithium-sulfur batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

The advantage of electric propulsion systems is their environmentally friendly operation, fewer moving parts and simplicity, compared to ICE engined aircraft. Some estimate that electric propulsion will reduce operating costs by up to 80%.

In a previous weblog post, Alice, an all-electric, nine-passenger aircraft being developed by Eviation Aircraft, was discussed. That project was disrupted in 2020-01 when an electric system fire damaged an Alice prototype in Arizona. Magnix had also been named one of two companies to supply propulsion systems for it.

The eCaravan in flight at Moses Lake, Washington, USA, 2020-05-28. Photo: Magnix

This weblog post was updated 2020-06-05.

Clowns Supervised by Monkeys

Crash site of Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, Boeing 737-8F2 (TC-JGE, “Tekirdağ”), at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 2009-02-25 Copyright Fred Vloo / RNW (Creative Commons Generic 2.0 licence)

Clowns supervised by monkeys, is a description of Boeing that comes from one of its employees in an email in 2017. After two fatal crashes of 737 Max aircraft killed 346 people because of faulty Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software, a flight control subsystem designed to enhance pitch stability.

In addition, there have been multiple problems with 787 Dreamliners. Some of the problems involve leaking fuel valves and lithium-ion battery problems. Most recently, in 2019-12, it was revealed that Boeing removed copper foil that formed part of the lightning strike protection from wings of the aircraft.

Additional questions are being asked after yet another 737 made a “rough landing” on 2020-02-05 at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport. Three people were killed and 179 injured, of the 183 passengers and crew on board. Adding to this is a question about the legitimacy of the report on the 2009-02-25 crash of Turkish Airlines flight 1951.

This crash is the subject of Mayday episode 72 (aka Series 10 Episode 6) “Who’s in Control?” first shown 2011-02-28.

New York Times journalist Chris Hamby claimed in 2020-01 that the investigation either excluded or played down criticisms of the manufacturer in its 2010 final report, after pushback from Boeing and American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials. The Hamby article uses a 2009 human factors analysis by Sidney Dekker. In 2020-02, it was reported that Boeing refused to cooperate with a new Dutch review on the crash investigation and that the NTSB had refused Dutch lawmakers’ request to participate.

Then there is the KC-46 Pegasus, a military aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft developed from the 767 airliner. Numerous issues include its remote vision system, refueling boom, delivery with loose tools and other debris left inside planes after manufacture.

Software Verification

While not all issues are software related, several are. There seem to be significant flaws in Boeing’s software verification process. The heart of the problem is that Boeing has been given permission by the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to certify its own designs. That means that Boeing regulates itself.

The verification of software takes considerable effort, and expertise. Some experts claim that it takes an order of magnitude more (a fancy way of saying ten times more) to verify a software program than to develop and test it. Many also conclude that it takes a special type of person, frequently someone on the autism spectrum, to undertake such work. For extroverts, and other people far removed from autism, dealing with system verifiers can be problematic.

Airbus and Boeing refuse to compete on the basis of safety. Both companies pretend that they are equally safe, and that the only metric that needs to be taken into consideration by airlines is price. Unfortunately, safety is an issue, and some inconvenient metrics demonstrate this. The Airbus A320 family of aircraft competes against the Boeing 737 family. Airsafe’s fatal crash rates per million flights puts Airbus A320 family rate of 0.08 in contrast to Boeing 737’s family rate of 0.23 (Almost three times higher).

Lou Whiteman, an analyst at the Motley Fool, wonders if Boeing should be split up. He reasons that Boeing is too large and complex to manage effectively. The result is a series of blunders. Because of the dominance of Boeing, any failures have a massive impact on the entire U.S. economy.

Beyond Boeing to modern business culture, one of the challenges facing many companies is the use of extraverts as executives. These often have an ability to speak for themselves, even promoting themselves as executive material. Yet, an ability to listen may be, if not lacking, regarded as of secondary importance. Worse still is the situation where sociopaths and psychopaths become executives. Readers interested in the challenges posed by extroversion are encouraged to read Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

I’m allowing Fugboi to have the final comment originally posted as a comment in the Mentour Pilot video: “What’s wrong with Boeing? Answer: MCAS (Money Comes Above Safety)”

Some other materials:

Natasha Frost: How the McDonnell Douglas Boeing Merger led to the 737 Max Crisis

Leslie Josephs: Damning Boeing Messages

Theo Leggett: Boeing whistleblower raises doubts over 787 oxygen system

Mentour Pilot: What has happened at Boeing?

Trendnuz: Boeing Engineer Cited Focus on Profit over Safety

Eviation Alice

The Eviation Alice. image: Eviation.

Alice is an electric aircraft being developed since 2017 by Eviation Aircraft of Israel. A first flight is expected sometime in 2020, followed by a certification program lasting two to three years. Composite materials form 95% of the plane. It will be controlled by fly-by-wire (a system that replaces manual flight controls with electronic ones) and powered by three pusher propellers (facing backwards) , two on the wingtips and one at the rear of the fuselage.

Eviation was founded in 2015 by Omer Bar-Yohay, Omri Regev and Aviv Tzidon. Eviation teamed up with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) to launch a research and development program to start in the spring of 2019 at ERAU’s Prescott, Arizona campus. The program would focus on performance analysis, validation and testing, along with preliminary design and sub-scale testing of future electric propulsion and airframe design concepts.

Eviation has secured $200 million of investment to cover certification and production while the first prototype was assembled in Vannes, northwest France. This site was chosen, because it is the location of composite materials specialist, Multiplast. Other suppliers include: Honeywell is providing flight control systems, including automatic landing. Magnaghi Aeronautica will supply the landing gear. Kokam Company will supply pouch lithium polymer batteries to power the full-scale prototype. While Siemens 260 kW motors had been selected as a primary power source, MagniX Magni250s 280 kW motors were selected as a second power option. This ranking may change as MagniX owner Clermont Group from Singapore took a 70% stake in Eviation Aircraft in August 2019.

Charge vehicles, similar to aviation fuel trucks, would be used to charge the plane. Each hour of flight time was expected to require a charging time of 30 minutes.

The planes have a unit cost of $ 4 million. Currently, over 150 Alice aircraft had been ordered by two American companies. An investment of $500 million is needed to begin serial production.

Alice flight deck. Image: Eviation.
Alice interior. Image: Eviation.
External Dimensions
Length13.2 m 
Wingspan16.12 m
Height4.2 m
Performance
Cruise speed 445 km/ hour = 240 KTAS
Takeoff field length914 m
Cruise altitudeca. 3 000 m
Service ceilingca. 3 800 m
Range540 NM = 1 000 km (+45min IFR reserve)
Characteristics
Occupants9 Passengers (+ 2 crew)
Useful load1 134 kg
MTOW (Max Take-Off Weight)6 350 kg
Power900 / 260 kW (peak/cruise)
Battery & Operations
Battery920 kWh
Battery chemistryLithium Ion (NMC)
Battery weight3,600 kg (~60% MTOW)
Direct operating costs$200/ hour

Nils Christensen (1921 – 2017)

Hawaii Mars C-FLYL a Martin JRM Mars cargo transport seaplane, converted to a water bomber in the early 1960s by Nils Christensen while working with Fairey Aviation. This shows the machine moored on Sproat Lake, Vancouver Island, British Columbia on 2006-10-31. Photo: Alex Juorio

Nils Christensen was a Norwegian-Canadian entrepreneur who founded the Canadian aerospace manufacturing firm, Viking Air Ltd. He was born 1921-08-21 in Høvik, Bærum (adjacent to Oslo), Norway. At the age of five he claims to have witnessed the airship Norge heading off on an exploration trip to the North Pole.

After finishing his training as an apprentice mechanic, Christensen worked in the merchant marine until 1942 when he enlisted in the Royal Norwegian Air Force (in exile) in New York City, USA. He was trained as an aircraft mechanic at Little Norway, Lille Norge, the Norwegian Air Force Training Camp, Flyvåpnenes Treningsleir, at Muskoka airfield, near Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada.

After completing his training in 1943, he was posted to the 333 (Norwegian) Squadron RAF based at Leuchars, Fife, Scotland, under control of the RAF Coastal Command, Christensen acted initially as an aircraft mechanic for de Havilland built Mosquito aircraft.

In 1946, Christensen attended Engine Instructors’ School in England, then he instructed on engines and aircraft for the Royal Norwegian Air Force. In 1947, he left the Air Force, and soon after obtained his Norwegian Aircraft Mechanic’s license. He began civilian work as a flight engineer and a station engineer for Braathens South-American & Far East (SAFE) Airtransport, flying and maintaining Douglas DC-3 and DC-4 aircraft. He was transferred to Amsterdam, Holland by Braathens.

In 1951, Christensen moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, working for de Havilland Canada, converting Lancaster bombers into air-sea rescue machines. In 1952 he became chief of maintenance at Sault Airways, a bush plane operation, where he serviced float and ski aircraft including Norseman and Cessna. He also earned his Canadian Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) license.

In 1956, Christensen moved to Sidney, British Columbia, Canada, where he became chief of maintenance at the Victoria Flying Club. In 1959 he joined Forest Industries Flying Tankers (FIFT), as a flight engineer and superintendent of maintenance on the giant Martin JRM Mars water bombers. These, the largest flying boats ever built, were initially developed for the US Navy in WWII as a cargo transport seaplane, Seven were built. Three were lost by 1950. The remaining four were purchased from the US Navy by FIFT in 1959. Christensen obtained his Flight Engineer License in 1960, and began working with Fairey Aviation converting the Mars to firefighting water bombers, that operated out of Sproat Lake, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

In 1961 one of the converted Mars crashed killing all four crew members, then in 1962, the other completed plane was destroyed by Typhoon Freda at the Victoria Airport. The conversion of the remaining two Mars aircraft was completed in 1963. These water bombers were operated by FIFT until 2007 when they were purchased and operated by Coulson Flying Tankers, until their retirement in 2016. A weblog post on these water bombers is a work in progress.

In 1965, Christensen left FIFT and joined Fairey Aviation, recently purchased by IMP Group International after the collapse of the British mother company, servicing a variety of aircraft. In 1967, he became foreman of McKinnon Enterprises, an aircraft parts and modification facility in Sidney, where he was responsible for rebuilding/ converting three amphibian Grumman Goose aircraft to turbine power, and upgrading four Grumman Widgeons.

In 1970, Christensen bought Victoria Flying Services and its 11 aircraft. When McKinnon Enterprises closed in 1970, Christensen also bought all of its equipment and started his own company, Viking Air Ltd., that focused on overhaul, maintenance and conversions of various small aircraft, especially flying boats including the Grumman Goose, Widgeon, Mallard and Albatross. When Viking Air started it had two people on the floor and one in the office. By 1979, it had 25 people in the main shop, and six in Viking Shell, a fuel dealership and pilot’s lounge.

In 1983, Viking Air moved into manufacturing. After 10 years of negotiations with de Havilland Canada, Viking Air was selected as their sole parts producer and distributor for Beaver and Otter aircraft. Christensen sold Viking Air Ltd. and retired as President in 1987. Viking Air had grown from three employees to 50 at the time of Christensen’s retirement.

In 1993, Christensen and his wife moved from Sidney to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia where they lived for 24 years. In 2017-03, they moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia to be near family. Nils Christensen died in Abbotsford on 2017-08-06. In 2018-10, his ashes were interred at the 800 year-old Haslum Church and Cemetery in Bærum, Norway.

This weblog post concludes a short series about de Havilland Canada related topics. Since this post primarily deals with Christensen in his role as an aircraft mechanic turned manufacturer, and not his other contributions, people interested in other details of his life, may want to read more about him in Wikipedia.

Twin Otter: A tidbit

First flight of the new Series 400 Twin Otter, manufactured by Viking Air (the current type certificate holder). This airplane is the technical demonstrator C-FDHT. Photo taken at YYJ Victoria International Airport, 2008-10-01 by paneuropean at Wikipedia.

The Twin Otter is a popular and successful commercial aircraft, with 985 units built, as this weblog post goes to press. It is praised for its rugged construction and STOL (Short take Off and Landing) characteristics. Its price in 2017, was US$ 6.5 million.

Development of the Twin Otter started in 1964-01, when de Havilland Canada commenced work to modify the DHC-3 single-engined Otter design into a twin-engined turboprop STOL commuter airliner and utility transport, designated DHC-6. This involved lengthening the wings, and redesigning the rear fuselage, tail, and nose. Seating was increased to a maximum of 18.

Construction of a prototype began in 1964-11, which was first flown on 1965-05-20. There have been several production series, most notably the 100, 200 (from 1968-04) and 300 (from 1969). De Havilland ceased production of the Twin Otter in late 1988 after producing 844 aircraft.

Fortunately, after Series 300 production ended, the remaining tooling was purchased by Viking Air of Victoria, British Columbia, allowing it to manufactures replacement parts for all of the out-of-production de Havilland Canada aircraft.

On 2006-07-17, Viking Air announced its intention to offer a Series 400 Twin Otter. On 2007-04-02, Viking announced it had received 27 orders and options, and was restarting production of the Twin Otter. In 2007-11 a new assembly plant was established in Calgary, Alberta. The design has been modernized.

As of 2019-12, The 141 Series 400 Twin Otters have been made. Currently, 38% are operated as regional airliners, 31% in military aviation or special missions, 26% in industrial support and 5% in private air charter. About 70% use regular landing gear wheels, 18% are configured as straight or amphibious floatplanes, 10% use tundra tires and 2% use wheel skis.

In Norway, Widerøes Flyveselskap A / S became the major civil buyer of Twin Otters. In the late 1960s there was a large-scale development of small airports in Northern Norway and on the coast of Western Norway. Most of these airports had 800 meters long runways, suitable for Twin Otters, but almost nothing else. Widerøe bought their first Twin Otter in 1968, LN-LNM (s / n 127). In total, Widerøe bought 12 Twin Otters directly from the factory, besides 2 that were purchased used.

The Twin Otter showed outstanding reliability, and remained in service until 2000 on certain routes. Widerøe was, at one time, the world’s largest operator of Twin Otters. During one period of its tenure in Norway, the Twin Otter fleet achieved over 96,000 cycles (take-off, flight, and landing) per year.

Further information about the Twin Otter in Norway, but written in Norwegian, can be found here.

de Havilland Canada: A tidbit

A de Havilland Canada DHC-7-100 Dash 7 LN-WFE in Widerøe livery at Hammerfest Airport 1987-07-04. The author used Dash 7s to commute between Bodø and Tromsø between 1986 and 1988. Photo: Udo K. Haafke

De Havilland was started in 1920 by Geoffrey de Havilland (1882 – 1965) at Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware on the outskirts of north London. Operations were later moved to Hatfield in Hertfordshire. De Havilland Canada started life as a subsidiary in 1928, for the purpose of making assorted versions of Moths, variously described as light aircraft/ sports planes/ military trainers. During the second world war, de Havilland Canada was nationalized, by the Canadian government. It remained a crown corporation until the 1980s, when the government privatized it, then sold it to Boeing, in 1986.

While the British parent company is especially noted for the versatile design of its DH.98 Mosquito warplane, made largely of wood with 7 781 produced between 1940 and 1950, and the DH 106 Comet, the world’s first jet airliner, with 114 produced between 1949 and 1964, de Havilland Canada innovated some unique designs, especially suited for flying in the “bush”. These are:

TypePurposeCapacityfirst flightproduction#
DHC-1
Chipmunk
Trainer219461947 – 19561 283
DHC-2
Beaver
Bush1 + 719471947 – 19671 657
DHC-3
Otter
STOL Bush1 + 1119511953 – 1967466
DHC-4
Caribou
STOL Cargo3 + 3219581961 –
late 1960s
307
DHC-5
Buffalo
STOL Cargo3 + 4119611965; 1974122
DHC-6
Twin Otter
STOL Utility2 + 19651966 – 1988
2008 –
985
DHC-7
Dash 7
STOL Regional2 + 35 – 5419751978 – 1988113
DHC-8
Dash 8
Regional2 + 37 – 9019831984 –1 249

Despite Canadian government claims to have guarantees to prevent Boeing discontinuing product lines, both the Twin Otter and Dash 7 were discontinued, with their jigs and specialised manufacturing equipment destroyed. DHC was eventually acquired by Bombardier Aerospace in 1992, and integrated into the Bombardier group of companies.

On February 24, 2006, Viking purchased the type certificates from Bombardier Aerospace for all the out-of-production de Havilland Canada aircraft (DHC-1 through DHC-7). The ownership of the certificates gave Viking the exclusive right to manufacture new aircraft.

In November 2018, Viking Air’s holding company, Longview Aviation Capital, announced the acquisition of the Q400 program – a modernized version of the Dash 8, where the Q (for quiet) indicates that planes are fitted with active noise control systems – along with the rights to the de Havilland name and trademark. The deal, which closed on 2019-06-03 following regulatory approval, brought the entire de Havilland product line under De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited.

ePlane: A tidbit

Harbour Air DHC-2 Beaver floatplane in Richmond, British Columbia, powered by an electric magniX magni500 propulsion system. Photo: Harbour Air.

On 2019-12-10 Harbour Air successfully flew the world’s first all-electric commercial aircraft, the ePlane, a six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Canada Beaver on floats, with call sign C-FJOS and production number 1030 of the 1 692 DHC Beavers ever built. Originally delivered with a piston ICE engine on 1957-03-01, it spent most of its operational life based in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

This aircraft, with yellow and blue livery, is now powered by a 560 kW magni500 propulsion system. Its first electric propulsion flight started and ended on the Fraser River at Harbour Air floatplane terminal in Richmond, British Columbia at YVR South, part of Vancouver International Airport.

Richmond is the home base of Harbour Air, North America’s largest floatplane airline. It specializes in routes between Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, Sechelt, Comox, Whistler and the Gulf Islands. There are also flights between downtown Vancouver and downtown Seattle. They also have a European subsidiary in Malta.

Harbour Air has a history of green operations, that is deeper than a typical greenwash. In 2007, it became the first airline in North America to achieve complete carbon neutrality in both flight services and corporate operations. It has announced its intention to build the world’s first completely electric commercial floatplane fleet, but because of certification requirements, including testing, it will have to wait until about the beginning of 2022 before this can start. The company is regarded as one of the best managed in Canada, and has won awards for this.

The Harbour Air fleet consists primarily of de Havilland Canada floatplanes: 14 DHC-2 Beavers (5 – 6 passengers), 21 DHC-3-T(urbo) Otters (10 – 14 passengers) and 3 DHC-6 Twin Otters (18 passengers).

In March 2019, Harbour Air announced a partnership with magniX to electrify the entire Harbour Air fleet over the long term. Harbour Air has noted that its initial electric-powered commercial flights will be on routes of under 30 minutes’ duration. The DHC-2 Beaver serves as the test prototype for the magniX motor, energy storage, and control systems.

MagniX is an Australian electric motor manufacturer for electric aircraft, wholly owned by Singapore investor Clermont Group. Its engineering headquarters is located on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Its global headquarters and US development centre is located in Redmond, Washington, near Seattle.

One of the main advantages of an electric motor in an aircraft is full torque at low RPM. In addition, the mechanics are simpler, reducing the number of parts as well as weight. For example, a propeller can be attached directly to the motor without a reduction gear.

The magni500 was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June, 2019. It provides 560 kW, and 2800 Nm of torque. It weighs 135 kg. The smaller magni250 motor provides 280 kW, and 1400 Nm of torque. It weighs 72 kg. Both types of motors rotate at between 1900 and 3000 RPM, and offer 93% power conversion efficiency. Both motors can be regarded as high-power-density electric propulsion systems that provides a clean and efficient way to power airplanes. The company also makes a magniDrive 170 kW power electronics system used to run both the magni250 and magni500.

Sources: Beaver Tails ; Harbour Air ; Magnix ; Wikipedia – Harbour Air Seaplanes & Magnix .