Beta Technologies

Beta ALIA-250 prototype eVTOL aircraft. Photo: Brian Jenkins, 2021-08-23

This weblog post is about Beta Technologies, and especially its partnerships with companies in California and British Columbia.

Beta Technologies is a aerospace manufacturer based in Burlington, Vermont. Since its founding in 2017, it has been developing electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) as well as electric conventional take-off and landing (eCTOL) aircraft for the cargo, medical passenger, and military aviation applications. It has also developed a network of chargers which can supply power to aircraft. Training programs for future electric aircraft pilots and maintainers are also provided.

This weblog has covered electric aircraft previously including the ePlane, the Eviation Alice, the eCaravan, Heart Aerospace ES-19 in addition to draft content about other aircraft has been written, but not yet published. I am not surprised that established airplane manufacturers are not at the forefront of electric aviation. This is actually expected according to Clayton Christensen (1952 – 2020). He introduced disruption as an business concept in The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997). Steam shovel manufacturers went bankrupt, while their former market was won over by upstart innovators making hydraulic excavators. Battery based transportation has emerged for land based vehicles, ferries and other ship based transport, as well as aviation.

General Motors may have started the 21st century revitalization of the electric vehicle, with their EV1 in 1996 – 1999, but ended up crushing almost all of the 1 117 EVs produced. An estimated 40 survived, with deactivated powertrains. They claimed the EV was dead.

Tesla Motors was founded 2003-07 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, as a tribute to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. In 2004-02, Elon Musk became the company’s largest shareholder with a $6.5 million investment. He became CEO in 2008. Tesla’s announced mission is to create products which help accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The company began production of its first car model, the Roadster sports car, in 2008.

Tesla Superchargers are a major reason why the brand has become so dominant. A reliable, fast and accessible charging infrastructure has shown itself to be of critical importance in the adoption of EVs. The Tesla charger, known as NACS = North American Charging Standard, developed by Tesla has been used on all North American market Tesla vehicles since 2012 and was opened for use by other manufacturers in 2022.

Beta’s ALIA electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) aircraft completed a flight milestone of its own in 2023-10, traveling 1 700 nautical miles = 3060 km = from Vermont, across 12 states to Duke Field, a subsidiary of Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida, where the US Air Force is now validating the aircraft for vital use capabilities including critical resupply, cargo deliveries and personnel transport.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) published a report in 2023-09 titled Interoperability of Electric Charging Infrastructure. This report concluded that shared charging infrastructure offers numerous benefits, in contrast to OEMs developing multiple proprietary protocols.

Beta Technologies has focused on building out an aviation charging network, not only for its own aircraft, but for the entire aviation sector by using an existing standard. Beta has been in developing electric aircraft charging technology since its founding, in anticipation of a new widespread mobility segment. It has 14 charging stations online in the US, with 55 additional sites already in development or under construction.

Archer Aviation’s autonomous, two-seater demonstrator aircraft completed its first hover test on 2021-12-16. Photo: Archer Aviation

Meanwhile, in San Jose, California, Archer Aviation has been developing its own eVTOL aircraft. Archer is a publicly traded company. They have entered into a collaboration, where Archer intends to implement BETA’s electric aircraft charging technology to support its own eVTOL aircraft.

Geography may have been one reason why Beta and Archer found each other. Beta’s charging infrastructure is on the American east coast, while Archer is a west coast entity. Archer will begin by implement two of Beta’s Charge Cube systems at its test facilities in California. It will also deploy multiple Mini Cube mobile chargers. This could become the basis for aviation charging, much as NACS has become the de facto standard for land based EVs.

BETA Technologies’ Charge Cube system. Photo: Business Wire

Archer’s focus is on eVTOL aircraft is to offer an aerial ridesharing service, also referred to as Urban Air Mobility (UAM). They are planned to transport people in and around cities in an air taxi service and are claimed to have a range of up to 160 km at speeds of up to 240 km/h. United Airlines is its first major corporate partner, having ordered two hundred Archer electric aircraft.


This Weblog post began because Don Wong sent me a link to an article about Helijet International.

Helijet International is a Richmond, British Columbia based helicopter airline and charter service. Scheduled passenger helicopter services operate flights between heliports at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), downtown Vancouver ( on a floating structure, adjacent to Waterfront Station on Burrard Inlet), downtown Nanaimo at the Cruise Ship Welcome Centre, and downtown Victoria. Helijet also has facilities at Seal Cove (CBF6) in Prince Rupert, and at Sandspit Airport (YZP) and Masset Airport (ZMT) both on Haida Gwai = an island group previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Helijet Charters serves the film, television, aerial tour, industrial and general charter markets. It is also British Columbia’s largest air medical service provider.

The Helijet fleet currently consists of 3 medevac equipped Aérospatiale AS350 helicopters, 15 Sikorsky S-76 12 passenger helicopters, and a Learjet 31 fixed wing aircraft.

Don’s link said that Helijet would work with Beta to build a five-passenger plus pilot Alia eVTOL aircraft for traveller and commercial transportation, to be used in southwestern B.C. and the Pacific Northwest region. A publicity event to announce this was held on 2023-10-31 at Helijet’s Victoria Harbour Heliport, attended by Skye Carapetyan, sales director of Beta, British Columbia Premier David Eby, and Danny Sitnam, CEO of Helijet.

According to the announcement, the aircraft are currently in advanced flight standards development toward commercial regulatory certification in 2026. These aircraft are quieter, cost less, and are more sustainable for air transportation. However, eVTOL aircraft are not identical with helicopters. This means that the ground and building infrastructure at existing heleports will have to be updated to vertiport standards, which includes integrating zero-emission capabilities, and vertical lift technologies.

The electric aircraft’s vertical take-off and landing ability will also improve emergency response, air ambulance and organ transfer services in the British Columbia, especially the Lower Mainland. It will helping rural/ remote communities gain access to affordable and convenient air services.

Eby commented that the provincial government recognizes the potential of advanced air mobility to decarbonize the aviation sector, improve regional connectivity, improve emergency response times and introduce new manufacturing opportunities.

A Perfect Planet

Planet Earth has always undergone transformations, sometimes having enormous effects much more significant than the current warming of the planet. A lot has happened in the 4.6 billion years (about 145 Ps= Petaseconds, in SI units). So, while we will never live on a perfect planet, there is a lot people can do to make it a better planet. Much of that behaviour means doing less. Each of us has a short period of time, perhaps 80 years (2.5 Gs= Gigaseconds), to make a positive impact.


For the past two months (2023-03 and -04), I have taken a sabbatical from writing weblog posts, allegedly to concentrate on a kitchen renovation. The renovation probably did not proceed any faster, but it was delightful to avoid deadline anxiety, which was the real reason for the writing break. Writing was taking up too much of my time. Thus, this post signals that I intend to be more moderate with my writing.

As is the case with most of my posts, much of this one was written months in advance of its intended publication date, sometime in 2024. When this post was originally written, it was for a celebration. Rail journeys to and from Inderøy would stop using Type/ Class 92 diesel powered railcars. Finally, the Trønder line, opened 1882-07-22, would be fully electrified.

Now, Banenor – the Norwegian government-owned corporation that builds out the rail network, claims it is currently working on part of that route from Trondheim to Hell or Stjørdal heading north, and to Storlien, heading east. That section of the line that continues north, between Stjørdal and Steinkjer, where Røra in Inderøy has a station, has been put on indefinite hold. The map, below, provides some clarification about the location of the routes mentioned. Inderøy is unmarked, but it is about 3/4 of the distance along the route from Hell to Steinkjer.

When 2023-05-01 arrived, this post was almost abandoned, because of this unpleasant fact. However, I decided to continue. The original two sentence, opening paragraph appears immediately below, and has not been changed.

One of the major goals Patricia and I share, is to reduce our environmental footprints. Much of this reduction will be associated with transportation.

On our last major rail journeys from Drammen (near Oslo) to Bergen, Patricia was sitting beside a grump, who was pouting because of his lack of internet access, instead of enjoying the scenery. I have promised to change my attitude. I will make notes with a pen on paper on future rail journeys, and use my smartphone to take photos, and will avoid connecting to the internet.

In my defence, journeys always seem too long. My concentration wains after a few hours. Thus, I have obtained a concession that most journeys will be restricted, generally, to an a duration of six hours (a day), but with the possibility of exceptions. This applies not just to trains, but also to other forms of travel.

That rail journey was on an electrified rail line, that obtains its energy from renewable sources. The Class/ Type 92 dielsel railcar sets in use from 1984 to 2022 were noisy rather than uncomfortable, and not really suitable for anyone (apart from athletes) to enter and exit. You can read about them here:

This simplified map shows the routes from Trondheim that head south (not mentioned further), east and north. Both of these last two routes run to Hell, on the south bank of the Stjørdal River. Across the river to the north is TRD = Trondheim Airport, Værnes and the city of Stjørdal. South of the river the line continues eastward commonly under the name Meråker Line, where it crosses the border into Sweden. The first station in Sweden is at Storlien. West of Storlien, diesel locomotives (Loks, in colloquial Norwegian) were used on this route, with electric locomotives taking over for the journey eastwards.
A Type 76 FLIRT train at Trondheim Airport, Værnes station. Photograph: Alasdair McLellan

Stadler, the Swiss train manufacturer, makes various models of FLIRT = Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train (English); Flinker Leichter Intercity- und Regional-Triebzug (German), multiple-unit trainsets. The Type 76, now used in Trøndelag, as a replacement for the Type 92, is a variant of these. It is 7.2 meters longer, with two drive bogies, compared to three on the other similar types, because of a generator car containing four power packs. Each power pack contain a 480 kW diesel engine and a generator that supplies electricity independently of each other. There is also a small battery pack that can be used to move the trainsets in and out of workshop buildings without starting the diesel engines.

I refer to this unit as a Power Pod, essentially a half-length special purpose rail car, equipped with four power packs, each providing 480 kW of diesel fueled motive power to a Type 76 train. The photograph was taken at Røra station, Inderøy by Alasdair McLellan.

To discover new electrified rail adventures, we bought ourselves two books, one in English and the other in Norwegian: The newly (2022-04-12) published 17th edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide, by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries; Ferie med Tog: Reiseglede langs skinnene = Holidays by Train: Travel pleasure along the tracks (2022), by Sigrid Elsrud.

It is not practical to make rail journeys everywhere. For the first time since the pandemic, Brock is taking flights, to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. He and Trish are still intending to take flights to visit our daughter, Shelagh, currently living in Oakland, California. However, these could mark the end of our flying career that began, for Patricia, in 1966, when she returned from Ireland and Great Britain with her sister, Aileen. To get there, they had taken a train across Canada from Vancouver to Montreal, then taken a ship to Cork, in Ireland. Most of our international flights have involved trips to British Columbia, to visit family.


If one intends to do less of something, the time involved has to be applied to other activities. Less travel means more of something else. That something else means more of staying at home.

We live in a rural area, and have no intention of moving. We have lived in the same house since 1989-03-01. Most weeks I drive into Straumen, our municipal centre, and back, 26 km (16 miles). Once a month, I extend this to 60 – 70 km (32 – 37 miles) by driving to one of the neighbouring communities of either Verdal or Steinkjer. Patricia has even more extensive driving habits, that may involve driving 100 km in a week. Weather permitting, we make a few longer excursions. In 2022, we spent NOK 10 758.84 on diesel for our Mazda 5, and drove about 8966 km. The fuel costs were about NOK 1.23/ km (US$ 0.20/ mile).

Since 2023-02-13, Buzz, our Volkswagen electrified MPV, has been providing this service. After 80 days of use, we had driven 2004 km, which amounts to an average of slightly over 25 km a day. We had provided Buzz with 526.2 kWh of electricity. This costs us about 1.5 NOK per kWh = NOK 789.30. The fuel costs per km are about NOK 0.40/ km (US$ 0.065/ mile), which is about one third of that of the Mazda 5.

We had driven more with Buzz than I had originally anticipated, but it includes about 700 km of excursions. This would amount to about 9 200 km a year, or almost the same as we drove the Mazda, in 2022.

Reducing transportation impacts may be necessary, but it is not enough to prevent climate change. In many areas we have decided to make do with what we have.

An example: In 2012, we bought a used 40″ HD television for half its 2010 new price (NOK 2 500 vs NOK 5 000). Its TV reception capabilities were almost immediately eliminated to avoid the television reception tax. Instead, it is connected to a media player that, in turn, is connected to our server. The media player uses LibreELEC = Libre Embedded Linux Entertainment Center, a just enough operating system, that supports the Kodi media player software. Both of these are open-source products. This screen will not be replaced until it stops working. It is gudenuf for our use.

This is mentioned because our primary substitute for international travel involves viewing documentary films. We will allow younger, physically fit camera crews to endure the dangers of capturing remote places, and enjoy them in our living room, up to a maximum of one hour a day, and up to several times a week. Five hours of viewing a week, should be enough for anyone. For those who think that we waste our time with television, our total consumption in 2023, ending 2023-05-05 is less than 40 hours! Yes, we keep a complete log of all programs watched.

We often refer to our residence as a cottage, rather than a house. Definitions are often personal, and my definition of a cottage is a residence that is compact, rural, close to nature, simple and charming. One further requirement is that it has to be practical. One cannot live in a cottage without adequate laundry facilities. Wikipedia tells us: “A cottage during England’s feudal period, was the holding by a cottager (known as a cotter or bordar) of a small house with enough garden to feed a family and in return for the cottage, the cottager had to provide some form of service to the manorial lord. However, in time cottage just became the general term for a small house.” The term has its origins in old Norse, kot = hut. The modern Norwegian kott refers to a closet. Related to cot is the Latin domus = dwelling/ house, and grangia = barn. In time the grangia became the grange, referring first to a farm, and then to a large house.

By compact, I mean that rooms are small, yet functional. Rural refers to a low population density. It is more difficult to specify what close to nature actually means, since so much of nature has been destroyed, or cultivated. Sometimes it is simply a brownfield area that has been left to rewild. Simple? One has to be careful about definitions here. Someone might object to calling a dwelling simple, when it is wired with Ethernet cables everywhere, and shelters about 20 different computers. To side-step this issue, I will define simple as the absence of unnecessary decoration. Similarly, I will not even attempt to define charm, except to say one knows it when one sees it.

For better or worse, I am not sure everyone can adapt to cottage life. My parents retired to a new, but similarly sized dwelling on Vancouver Island. They lived there for twelve years, then returned to New Westminster, and lived two blocks from the house where I had grown up. In contrast, I have no desire to reconnect with the bustle of urban life. Online shopping holds greater appeal than in-person shopping, although I value visits to places where I can see and touch wood, as well as plumbing and electrical components!

Before retiring, I would attempt to hire people to renovate parts of the house. It was no great success, because I felt the workers were always trying to take shortcuts or not being competent to do what I asked them to do. Our main bathroom is adequate, but it is not equipped with the pipe-in-pipe plumbing, I requested. The roofer did not know how to apply roofing paper, resulting in a leaking roof. The carpenter did not optimize the use of boards, creating unnecessary waste. Since I retired I have rebuilt much of the cottage myself, but keeping it simple. This year, and for the first time since the cottage was built in 1963, the kitchen is being renovated.

At one point I reflected on my personal dependency on Ikea, especially with respect to my office. It is not always appropriate to make everything. I use an inexpensive, black Ikea Råvaror folding chair (no longer available), with a back and seat made of plywood, without arms. There are no adjustments. This is useful when I make things at my desk. Arms on a chair would just get in the way. When that gets too uncomfortable, I work standing up, folding the chair and stowing it, and raising the sit-stand desk I bought in 2008. It is not from Ikea, but from a local furniture store. It measures 1800 mm wide x 1000 mm deep (72″ x 40″). Along the wall behind my desk I have installed a shelf above the standing height of the desk, and fitted it with three Ikea Moppe mini-storage chests that houses components and tools. Above that I have 4 (width) x 2 (height) Ikea Eket storage cubes, for equipment, books and other reference materials. I also have an Ikea Alex drawer unit, for storage of things, including those printed on paper. More recently, I bought an Ikea Elloven monitor stand with drawer. The top of it supports my 27″ AOC monitor, Logitech G Pro headset and Vertical mouse. Underneath, it provides space to stow my Logitech K860 ergonomic keyboard, while the drawer provides storage space for assorted writing implements. I also have a desk lamp with magnifier, which is sometimes necessary for electronic work. If I need greater magnification, I also have a stereo microscope. I still use my 2016 Asus VivoMini VC65, because I like it. I deliberately bought a monitor without a camera, but have a Logitech webcam, for those few occasions when it is needed. In terms of speakers, I have an Angry Birds speaker bought used for $5. The power supply it did not come with, cost more! It is not used often, because I share my working environment with another person. This is also why I have never considered a mechanical keyboard. In terms of plants, I not only have Phillis, a philodendron, but curtains made from Ikea Filodendron cotton fabric.

While the kitchen has some components from Ikea, especially the Vattudalen sink and Sundsvik tap/ facet. Most of the whiteware is international: The Samsung microwave oven, fridge and freezer were bought in Steinkjer, in 2021; The Electolux dishwasher and oven, and the Husqvarna induction stovetop were bought locally in Straumen, in 2023. I have come to accept a certain level of dependency on large corporations. Much of the remaining components and supplies came from Biltema = Car Theme, in Steinkjer. It is yet another Swedish chain, founded in Linköping in 1963, to provide car parts to the Scandinavian market. In particular, they have provided the material for the cabinets, made from 18 x 600 x 2400 mm = 3/4″ x 2′ x 8′ spruce shelving material, and the 25 x 600 x 2400 = 1″ x 2′ x 8′ oak counter tops. They have also supplied PEX plumbing components, and electrical installation materials. The drawer and sliding door handles have a more complex history. Originally, we bought some at Ikea, but these were discontinued. However, an identical model soon appeared at Biltema. These have become the standard handle used throughout the house. They also provide a sense of continuity. None of these parts are cutting edge, but they are gudenuf!


One of the main reasons I will continue to reduce the time I spend writing is because I want to spend some time doing other things. In 2022-06 I bought a CNC machine that still has not been used. I need to reassign time from writing to working in other areas. I need more variation.

For example, I want to construct a geodesic dome greenhouse, for the experience of making one. Afterwards, I may just give it away because gardening does not give me pleasure, and Trish does not want one. Similarly, I would like to use my CNC machine (and other tools) to construct a robotic lawn mower. Yes, I can probably buy one for less, but that won’t provide me with the satisfaction of making one. It may be based on a Segway Navimow, but with variations.

A Segway Navimow H3000E robotic lawn mower. Photo: Segway

There is now less than five hours before this post will be published. I have made some corrections, eliminated some content, and added some more. I will continue to publish some posts, but not with the same intensity as before.

D. B. Cooper

Tickle The WireFBI Accepts New Evidence in Cold Case of ...
Sketches of “D. B. Cooper” with and without sunglasses, from 1972. Images: FBI, in the public domain.

Fifty years ago today, 1971-11-24, a man identified as D. B. Cooper highjacked a Boeing 727-100. Sometime that day he disappeared.

A middle-aged man stood at Northwest Orient Airlines’ flight counter at Portland International Airport, identified himself as Dan Cooper and purchased a one-way ticket in cash for a 30-minute trip north to Seattle. After boarding the aircraft he, in all likelihood, sat in seat 18C.

Flight 305, with 36 passengers and a crew of six, departed Portland on schedule at 14:50 PST. Shortly after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to flight attendant Florence Schaffner. Although she initially put it in her purse, Cooper asked her to read it. It mentioned a bomb and directed her to sit beside him, which she did. Cooper showed her the bomb, then demanded $200 000 in “negotiable American currency”, four parachutes (two primary and two reserve), and a fuel truck to stand by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. Schaffner conveyed Cooper’s instructions to the pilots in the cockpit, then returned.

William A. Scott (1920–2001), the captain, contacted Seattle–Tacoma Airport air traffic control, which informed local and federal authorities. The passengers were told that their arrival in Seattle would be delayed because of a minor mechanical difficulty. Northwest Orient’s president, Donald Nyrop, authorized payment of the ransom, and ordered all employees to cooperate fully with the hijacker’s demands. The aircraft circled Puget Sound for about two hours while the parachutes and ransom money were assembled, and emergency personnel mobilized.

FBI agents assembled the ransom money, 10 000 unmarked 20-dollar bills and microfilmed each of them. Cooper rejected military parachutes, and obtained civilian parachutes with manual ripcords.

At 17:39, the aircraft landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The aircraft taxied to an isolated, but brightly lit section of the apron. All window shades in the cabin were closed. Northwest Orient’s Seattle operations manager, Al Lee, delivered a cash-filled knapsack and parachutes to flight attendant Tina Mucklow on the aft stairs. Once on board, Cooper allowed all passengers, Schaffner, and senior flight attendant Alice Hancock to leave the plane.

Cooper’s flight plan involved a southeast course toward Mexico City at the minimum airspeed possible without stalling the aircraft—approximately 100 knots = 185 km/h at a maximum 3 000 m = 10 000-foot altitude, with landing gear remaining in the takeoff/landing position, and wing flaps set at 15 degrees, and the cabin unpressurized. This meant that a second refuelling would be necessary. Cooper and the crew discussed options and agreed on Reno, Nevada, as the refuelling stop.

At about 19:40 the aircraft took off with only Cooper, Scott, Mucklow, first officer William J. Rataczak and flight engineer Harold E. Anderson on board. Two F-106 fighters shadowed the airliner, one above and one below, along with a Lockheed T-33 trainer, for part of the trip.

After takeoff, Cooper asked Mucklow to show him how to open the door to the aft staircase. He then ordered her to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door closed. At about 20:00, a warning light indicated that the aft airstair had been lowered. At 20:13, the aircraft’s tail moved upward movement, requiring trim to level it. The plane landed at 22:15, at Reno Airport. Cooper was no longer on board.

From my perspective, the most interesting aspect of the case has to do with investigators describing the highjacker as D. B. Cooper, rather than the name he used on his ticket, Dan Cooper. Agents theorized that Cooper took his alias from a popular Belgian comics series of the 1970s featuring the fictional hero Dan Cooper, a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot in a Belgian comic book/ graphic novel series, who participants in numerous heroic adventures, including parachuting. These comics were never translated into English, nor imported to the U.S. Thus, there are suggestions that Cooper was Canadian. In particular, the phrase “negotiable American currency”, aroused attention, because it would seldom be used by Americans.
Dan Cooper is a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot appearing in Les Aventures de Dan Cooper, illustrated and written by
Albert Weinberg (1922 – 2011) and published in 41 albums from 1957 to 1992.

On 1980-02-10, Brian Ingram (ca. 1972 – ) uncovered $5 800 of the ransom from the Columbia River bank at Tina/ Tena Bar, about 14 km downstream from Vancouver, Washington. This is the only money from the highjacking that has ever been recovered.

There have been any number of suspects. Only one will be mentioned. In an article by Jake Rossen, writing in Mental Floss, in 2016, he suggests that D. B. Cooper may have been Barbara Dayton (1926 – 2002), who, before gender-reassignment surgery in 1969, was born Bobby. For the high-jacking she had disguised herself as a man. Pat and Ron Formans’ book, The Legend of D. B. Cooper (2008) gives a more detailed version.

There are any number of sources of information about D. B. Coooper, including a Wikipedia article that has provided much of the information here.

Heart Aerospace ES-19
The Heart ES-19 Regional Airliner. Photo:

Heart Aerospace is a Swedish startup company developing an electric aircraft, the ES-19, a 19-passenger regional airliner, with four propellers. The ES-19 is planned to have a range of 400 kilometers, and to be able to recharge in less than 40 minutes. Heart plans to fly the aircraft in 2024 and have it certified by the end of 2026.

In 2021-03 Heart signed a letter of interest with Finnair which would allow the airline to purchase up to 20 ES-19 aircraft. In 2021-07 United Airlines and their sometime partner, Mesa Airlines, announced their intention to purchase 100 ES-19 aircraft, each.

Heart Aerospace is based in Göteborg, Sweden. It also has offices in Stockholm, Sweden and Palo Alto, California. Originally, it was part of the Electric Air Travel in Sweden (ELISE) project. It has funding from Sweden’s Vinnova innovation agency. For the ES-19 project, Heart Aerospace have backing from EQT Ventures, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (a venture fond started by Bill Gates in 2015 “to accelerate the development of sustainable energy and green technologies”), Mesa Airlines, United Airlines, and the European Innovation Council Green Deal Accelerator Programme. The governments of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Greenland have contributed about $1.4 million in funding.

While some might put the ES-19 in the same category as a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, currently marketed as the Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter, perhaps because they carry the same number of passengers, and have a high-wing design, there are a number of differences. In addition to all-electric propulsion, the ES-19 has a modular design, with aluminium as the airframe’s base material. The fuselage has a non-cylindrical profile, to optimise internal space utilisation, with 1+1 seating. The cabin is pressurised, and the landing gear retractable. It is designed to operate from a 800 m long runway.

The Nordic Network for Electric Aviation, founded in 2019, includes national airport authorities (Avinor, Finavia and Sweavia) and five airlines (Air Greenland, Braathens Regional Airlines, Finnair, Icelandair and SAS). For example, in 2020-12 Iceland stated it plans to have carbon-free domestic flights by the end of 2029. Iceland’s compact size and short distances between population centres, makes it suitable for using first-generation electric aircraft. enthusiastic about the application of electric technology, especially in light of the island’s abundant geothermal and hydro-power green-energy resources. Swedish North Volt is also involved in battery development for the aircraft.

Distances between airports are longer in Norway and Sweden, and the number of passengers to be moved is higher. However, Norway plans to have all its domestic flights all-electric by 2040. It is considering subsidies and/ or tax incentives for individual routes.

United Airlines has stated that the aircraft can be used on about 100 different routes in USA, but none are mentioned by name.

For further information see:

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
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)
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#
Trainer219461947 – 19561 283
Bush1 + 719471947 – 19671 657
STOL Bush1 + 1119511953 – 1967466
STOL Cargo3 + 3219581961 –
late 1960s
STOL Cargo3 + 4119611965; 1974122
Twin Otter
STOL Utility2 + 19651966 – 1988
2008 –
Dash 7
STOL Regional2 + 35 – 5419751978 – 1988113
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.