Rex has announced a new partnership with an Australian company that could see the first Rex Saab operating with a retrofitted electric propulsion system in as little as four years.
The airline has unveiled a new “strategic partnership” with Dovetail Electric Aviation — owned by the same company as Rose Bay tourist operator Sydney Seaplanes — to bring electric-powered regional aircraft to Australia quicker by focusing on converting existing turbine engines into electric-powered, zero-emission variants.
Specifically, the two will work to “develop and certify” the retrofitting of electric engines onto legacy regional aircraft, which Dovetail says could shave years off the timeline involved in engineering and certifying a brand-new electric-powered aircraft.
Retrofitting existing aircraft with new, zero-emission electric propulsion will also be more cost-effective for airlines, it added.
Under the deal, Rex will provide an aircraft to be used as a test for the project, as well as offering up its own resources for engineering, MRO, and storage throughout.
It could see part of Rex’s Saab 340 fleet converted to electric-powered using MagniX engines, for which Dovetail is the exclusive distributor in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, and Mediterranean Europe.
Converted aircraft are expected to be up to 40 per cent quieter than their predecessors, and see a similar percentage reduction in operating costs.
“Rex is both proud and excited to be at the forefront of developments in sustainable regional aviation and helping our national efforts in achieving the target of net zero emissions by 2050,” said Rex deputy chairman John Sharp.
Once certification is achieved, the two companies hope to see electric aircraft conversion centres across the country and the globe, with sights already set on Europe and Singapore.
“Dovetail promises to deliver the holy grail in aviation: true sustainability; lower maintenance and operating costs and also less waste as a function of the reuse of existing aircraft,” Sharp said.
“Regional airlines operating short sectors as well as seaplanes and training aircraft will be the early adopters of electric battery propulsion.
“Australia, with its very high utilisation of regional aviation and large number of aircraft capable of conversion, is a perfect incubator for the electric aviation industry.
“Significantly lower operating costs of electric aircraft will also help to stimulate regional aviation services between communities not currently served by scheduled flights.”
Dovetail is owned by Sydney Aviation Holdings, a holding company that owns both Sydney Seaplanes and Spain-based electric aviation startup Dante Aeronautical.
Sydney Aviation Holdings and Sydney Seaplanes CEO Aaron Shaw said “We are incredibly excited to collaborate with Rex Airlines and Dante Aeronautical on an initiative that promises to put Australia firmly on the map as a global leader in the conversion, certification, and maintenance of electric aircraft.
“For the first commercial electric flight to occur on such an historically important aviation site as Rose Bay just adds to our enthusiasm for this ground breaking project.”
Shaw added that Dovetail’s vision is to “lead” this transition from traditional to electric propulsion, before later turning sights to larger aircraft and longer flights through electric converted aircraft.