Finnair has signed a so-called letter of interest with Swedish electric aircraft developer Heart Aerospace that could lead to the airline’s acquisition of as many as 20 of Heart’s 19-seat ES-19 model for use on short routes. According to Heart CEO Anders Forslund, 12 airlines have now signed letters of interest covering more than 300 prospective orders, with Finnair being the most prominent to make a public commitment so far.
Heart Aerospace in September unveiled the electric propulsion system meant to power the ES-19. Scheduled for entry into service in third-quarter 2026, the airplane features four propellers powered by electric motors. The preliminary design for the aluminum-fuselage, fixed-wing model shows winglets and a T-shaped tail and somewhat resembles a smaller version of the De Havilland Canada Dash 7.
According to Forslund, Heart is close to making an announcement about further investment in its venture. Later this year, it expects to announce several partners who will supply key systems for the ES-19 and potentially help with manufacturing too. “So far we have been overwhelmed by the number of Tier One suppliers expressing an interest and we expect to put together an international team,” he told AIN. “We have built the propulsion system demonstrator and the next challenge is to show that we can build a full aircraft and make it work with all the subsystems, such as avionics, flight controls, and de-icing.”
Finnair’s acquisition would help it meet its goal of flying carbon neutral by 2045. The carrier has set an interim objective of halving carbon dioxide from its fleet by 2030.
Two years ago, Finnair joined the Nordic Network for Electric Aviation (NEA), which has seen governments, airlines and companies collaborate on new projects to develop sustainable ways to travel. The NEA’s goals center on four key areas: standardizing electric air infrastructure in the Nordic countries; developing business models for regional point-to-point connectivity; developing aircraft technology for Nordic weather conditions; and creating a platform for European and global collaborations.
In the same region, the Norwegian government has said that all domestic flights must use electric aircraft by 2040. In Sweden, there is a mandate for all domestic airline services to run without fossil fuel by 2030, and this will extend to international flights from 2045. And this week, the Swedish government said from July it plans to introduce takeoff and landing charges that it says will encourage airlines to use more fuel-efficient aircraft with lower carbon emissions.
“We have worked closely with the NEA but getting this commitment from Finnair is really important,” said Forslund. “The big challenge of building an electric aircraft isn’t just in the technology, but also building the momentum to create a project like this and building it all the way.”
Finnair’s plans would initially call for the use of electric aircraft on its shortest routes, helping to cut emissions and, potentially, invigorating local economies, said Forslund.
Heart Aerospace, which is headquartered at Gothenburg’s Save Airport, quotes a range for the all-electric ES-19 aircraft of up to around 400 km (217 nm). Specifications also show the airplane could operate on runways as short as 750 meters (2,461 feet), fly at a top speed of 215 knots, and cruise at a speed of 180 knots. The company maintains that the low speeds will not pose a disadvantage on short sectors, especially because the aircraft would be able to operate from smaller, less crowded airfields that will shorten door-to-door journey times.
Finnair’s plans would have to address infrastructure needs as well, developing smaller airports to allow flights between smaller towns and cities in a shift away from the traditional hub-and-spoke airport model.
“You need to really understand what is needed at the airports as well,” explained Anne Larilahti, head of sustainability at Finnair. “You can’t expand faster than the available infrastructure that supports these airplanes.”
Charging points will be required at every airport where an electric aircraft takes off and lands. While Heart Aerospace believes ground crews could fully charge the ES-19’s batteries 1,000 times over their lifetime, the airplanes would need charging every time they land.
“It makes sense to have a standard [for charging],” said Larilahti. “How much easier is life now that we have USB?”
Finally, Larilahti pointed out that the cold weather in the Nordic region makes it the perfect place to pioneer electric aviation technology. “Our cold climate has an impact on batteries and operating a light airplane,” she said. “If we know how to do it here, it’s easier to do it elsewhere.”
S: Aviation International News
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