14 June 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

JSX to acquire up to 330 hybrid-electric aircraft, while Norwegian region pursues e-seaplanes

US public charter airline JSX has announced plans to acquire up to 332 hybrid-electric aircraft from three emerging manufacturers, potentially increasing its current fleet eight-fold. The Texas-based operator, which sells individual seats on flights to private air terminals, has announced 132 firm orders and 200 options for aircraft ranging from nine to 30 seats, dramatically expanding its current complement of 48 Embraer E145 regional jets. Of the new aircraft, JSX has committed to take 32 US-made Electra short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft, with options for 50 more of the nine-seaters, 50 firm orders and 100 options for 19-seat ERA aircraft from French airframer AURA AERO, and 50 firm orders plus 50 options for 30-seat ES-30 commuter planes from Sweden’s Heart Aerospace. Meanwhile, electric seaplane maker Elfly Group and Lofoten Green Islands, a public-private partnership, are to collaborate on introducing zero-emission regional flights in Norway’s remote Artic north-west.

Describing itself as a “hop-on public charter jet service for all”, JSX operates up to 120 daily flights with its 30-seat Embraers to 24 business and leisure destinations in eight US states, plus Mexico and The Bahamas.

“As network airlines order ever-larger aircraft it is inevitable that more and more small markets will be abandoned,” said JSX co-founder and CEO Alex Wilcox, a former senior executive of JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic Airways and former Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines, and current Board member of LATAM Airlines.

“Electra, AURA AERO, and Heart Aerospace are visionary organisations that share in JSX’s commitment to serving smaller communities,” he said, “working together with us to weave sustainable regional air travel back into the fabric of American commerce and freedom of movement.”

The electric aircraft deals reflect a strategy by JSX to grow into a range of unserved or under-served secondary markets with a mix of zero-emission aircraft types offering different capabilities.

The largest is the four-engine ES-30 commuter airliner being developed by Heart Aerospace, with which JSX has signed a letter of intent to acquire up to 100 aircraft.

The ES-30s are designed to carry 30 passengers up to 200 kilometres using fully electric zero emission propulsion, and up to 400 kilometres using hybrid power, with potential to carry 25 passengers up to 800 kilometres when using typical airline fuel reserves.

“We’re really excited to be part of the JSX commitment toward sustainable regional air travel,” said Heart’s President and CCO, Simon Newitt. “The ES-30, with its competitive economics and green credentials, fits very well with JSX’s vision, and we see not only the opportunity to reconnect many regional routes lost over the years, but also open many more new ones.  We believe this transformation will be good for the consumer, good for the economy, as well as for the environment.”

Heart has secured a total of 250 firm orders, plus options and purchase rights for another 120 and, including the JSX agreement, holds letters of intent for another 191.

JSX has also signed a letter of intent with the French regional aircraft maker AURA AERO for up to 150 ERA aircraft, providing the flexibility to serve smaller markets or to offer more frequent service on existing routes with lower capacity planes.

The hybrid-electric ERA is an eight-motor aircraft, designed to carry up to 19 passengers or 1.9 tons of freight, has a flight range up to 1,600 kilometres, and can operate on short or unsealed runways.

The company says it has almost 500 orders for the aircraft, which it is aiming to introduce into commercial service before 2030.

“We are very proud to have been selected by JSX, one of the key operators in the US, to support the development of their regional network,” said Jeremy Caussade, President and Co-founder of AURA AERO. “ERA, our low-carbon aircraft, provides the performances required for JSX to bring air connectivity to more local communities.”

The smallest of the new aircraft types selected by JSX is the nine-seat Electra short take-off or landing (eSTOL) aircraft. JSX has signed a letter of intent to take up to 82 of the eight-motor aircraft from Virginia, USA-based Electra, with the first expected to join the airline in 2028.

The Electra eSTOL, for which 1,600 orders and options have been secured from 35 operators, is designed to take off or land on airstrips of less than 150 feet (46 metres) at speeds as low as 35 mph (56 kph), and to fly up to 500 nautical miles (926 kilometres), enabling services to be operated to and from small runways, airstrips or spaces inaccessible to larger fixed-wing aircraft.

It also enables low-capacity passenger or freight flights into regional communities, or low-volume, high-frequency services into small markets not served by other airlines.

“With the Electra eSTOL aircraft, JSX can dramatically lower the cost of its service and open new flight options at over 2,000 US airports, stimulating local economies and empowering regional mobility and connectivity for communities devoid of regular air service today,” said the airframer.

In Norway, electric seaplane developer Elfly Group has signed a letter of intent with Lofoten Green Islands, a private-public partnership for sustainable development, to progress the introduction of zero emission regional aviation in the Lofoten Archipelago in the country’s Arctic north-west, in line with the national target of emission-free domestic aviation by 2040.

The agreement was signed between Elfly, which is developing the all-electric ‘Noemi’ (no emissions) seaplane, and Lofoten Council, Destination Lofoten and regional energy provider Lofotkraft on behalf of six local municipalities.

The aircraft is inspired by a combination of the de Havilland Twin Otter and Grumman Mallard, its design funded by private investors and the Research Council of Norway. It will be powered by two battery-electric engines with a combined 1MW output and offer a flight range of up to 200 kilometres.

An experimental prototype of the aircraft is being prepared for test flights from 2026, in partnership with the Norwegian government and Enova SF.

Elfly is seeking certification of its test vehicle to CS23 Level 4, which would enable evolution of the prototype from a six or nine-seat business aircraft or a 13-seat tourist version up to a 19-seat seaplane, with additional plans for cargo or medevac versions.

The communities of the Lofoten region are remote, with access to and between the region’s islands often challenging and time-consuming, and some connections provided by regular helicopter services.

“Lofoten is a spectacular but demanding geographical area where ground transport takes a long time,” said Vidar Thom Benjaminsen, Mayor of the region’s Vågan Municipality and head of the Lofoten Regional Council.

“An electric aircraft capable of landing on water in a safe and good way, affordably priced, will be very good for Lofoten. We can travel from Svolvӕr to Reine in less than half an hour and make better connections with larger regional centres,” he said.

“Electric seaplanes with boat hulls and good stability can add exciting new travel opportunities within Lofoten,” added Hanna Sverdrup, Mayor of Moskenes “Our fishing villages can be connected by seaplane from port to port and they can help open new business opportunities for Reine, our most popular and iconic destination.”

Eric Lithun, CEO and founder of Elfly Group, said the new partnership demonstrated electric seaplanes could meet community needs in remote and challenging regions such as Lofoten. “We are proud to have the Lofoten Regional Council on board with us on this journey as we work to develop a product which suits their needs in the region, supporting travel and tourism, but also addressing the local transport needs for Lofoten inhabitants. Seaplanes will return.”

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