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Rex Saabs could see electric engines by 2026

written by Hannah Dowling | July 21, 2022

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.

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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.

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“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.

Comments (13)

  • Craig

    says:

    Really?

    Retro-fitting new engines’ to very old aircraft frames’, seems an odd thing to do.
    Let’s see how it all pans out in four years’.

  • Brian Doyle

    says:

    How long is REX going to keep these aged aircraft. Would be until once they start falling out of the sky. REx get real and start looking for a newer more efficient fleet of props.

    • Vannus

      says:

      They’ve already lost a prop off one in 2018.
      Should’ve taken notice of that, & started new fleet acquisition plan.

      But no, Sharp & Rex’s SIN billionaire owners’, have done nothing.
      Meanwhile, Sharp expends any energy he’s got in having verbal jibes at QANTAS, & its’ CEO, nonstop.

      Electric energy for even a little ‘plane, is real,’pie in the sky’ thinking.

  • Geof

    says:

    This is very strange. A lot of talk about electric motors but nothing about the source/storage of the electricity to power them. Current battery tech is nowhere near good enough for airline use. Comparable energy/density to weight is something like 10 times worse on current batteries compared to a tank of fuel. 2.5 tonnes of batteries would only be enough to get a sf340 about 50nm compared to 2.5 tons of fuel which gets it 500nm with a useful payload

    • Smith

      says:

      They could use an inverted pantograph and stay in ground effect most of the way up the Hume following the high tension lines. Like an upside down Bondi tram.

      This is more likely than storing enough electric energy in a Saab TP to fly to Bondi (from Mascot).

    • John J

      says:

      My thoughts exactly. Not to mention the one over riding physics law that is being broken here which is the reason fuel based aircraft gain efficiency. As a traditional turbine or piston engine burns its fuel load, it becomes progressively more efficient due to weight reduction. As a rule of thumb, each kilo of fuel burnt causes less to be needed to burn for the remaining fuel. Batteries give you NONE of that efficiency gain because for all intents and purposes they remain the exact same weight whether charged or discharged, so there is no progressive efficiency curve. But try explaining that to someone who has been brainwashed by the physics defying propaganda, or just doesn’t understand the basics of how engines work.

    • John

      says:

      They use these engines. https://www.magnix.aero/

      I believe they use a combo of stored power and hydrogen fuel cells.

  • Rob

    says:

    The only problem I can imagine is finding a long-enough extension lead to fly Sydney-Canberra!!!

    • This was already solved with the first generation of car phones through a reel on the back of the car rolling of a long cable which was connected to base. Only drawback was you had to retrace your route to roll it back up.

  • marcus

    says:

    Inspirational.
    Reminds me of India’s Hindustan Ambassador car.

  • George W Gerrity

    says:

    The announcement is just fluff W/O saying how the electric engines are being powered.

  • Neil

    says:

    Seems a very strange idea to turn these ancient Saab 340s into Electric aircraft using an old Airframe. At least they will be quiet and wouldn’t hear them, but I wouldn’t want one flying over my house if they ran out of Charge!!

  • John J

    says:

    Another example of irrational green propaganda ignoring basic engineering and physics, while dressed up as a corporate PR stunt. Not to mention an example of classic terminological inexactitude, when proposing that it would be a “zero emissions” solution. There is NO current, near or medium term battery or super capacitor storage system known that will provide even half the basic range required to make this physically possible, let alone commercially viable. And it will still need to be charged off the existing grid, which because we refuse to look at 4th Gen nuclear plants like the one the UAE just paid $24 billion for (5-6 of these would provide the equivalent to our national grid) guarantees we will remain dominated by gas generating plants for some decades. The only alternative is to put vast areas of land under huge solar and wind farms, which will take decades to construct, cause their own environmental issues and at least $340 billion to build. But again whatever you do, don’t mention engineering, physics and reality!

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