CAE is launching a great challenge for the Quebec aeronautics industry: to develop an electric aircraft that it could integrate into its fleet … within five years.
The CEO of the Montreal manufacturer of flight simulators, Marc Parent, “has had this on his radar for a long time,” told the Newspaper the vice-president of public affairs, Hélène Gagnon.
“Its ambition is that within five years, we will be able to replace at least half of our fleet with electric or hybrid planes,” explains Ms. Gagnon.
CAE owns more than 200 aircraft, primarily small Piper and Diamond aircraft, some of which are powered by Rotax, a subsidiary of Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP). They are used to train pilots in the company’s flight schools, located all over the world.
“It’s not just theoretical”
“We really, in a very serious way, want to work on this with the industry, because we want to be a client, we want to use them. It’s not just theoretical. “
Just before the onset of the pandemic, CAE’s vice president of technology and innovation, Marc St-Hilaire, began meeting with representatives of other global aerospace companies on the subject.
“We talk a lot about the electrification of transport, cars, trains, buses, trucks, but we don’t talk enough about electric planes,” says Hélène Gagnon. I think people see it as being too far away. What we’re trying to say is that, on the contrary, it can be much closer than we think, at least for small devices. “
Fitzgibbon in demand
This week, members of the Aéro Montréal board of directors discussed the issue with the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon. At his office, we did not want to comment.
Hélène Gagnon assures that CAE’s interest in electric aircraft is not linked to the fact that she is a member of the Hydro-Quebec board. The Crown corporation has been working on transportation electrification and battery technologies for many years.
It is also interesting to note that the new CEO of Bombardier, Éric Martel, led Hydro-Quebec for almost five years.
“There is everything that is needed in Quebec” to develop the electric aircraft, said a spokesperson for the aircraft manufacturer, Olivier Marcil, yesterday without giving further details.
Less pollution, less noise
In fact, CAE is setting its sights on electric aircraft in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Since this summer, the company has become “carbon neutral” by offsetting all of its emissions. However, its aircraft fleet is one of the main sources of these polluting substances.
“It’s good for the environment in addition to allowing us to reduce our operating costs and reduce noise, which is not negligible for the communities where we are present,” notes Ms. Gagnon.
In June, Slovenian manufacturer Pipistrel’s Velis Electro electric plane became the first of its kind in the world to receive government certification.
A few days earlier, the largest electric aircraft in the world, a Cessna Grand Caravan modified by the American firm magniX, had made its first flight.
“This 30-minute flight cost us $ 6 [US] in electricity compared to $ 300 to $ 400 in fuel, ”magniX CEO Roei Ganzarski told the trade publication Skies.