New electric seaplane plans revealed by Swiss start-up
In an attempt to transform flight connections between oceanside and river or lake communities, Swiss start-up Jekta has revealed plans for an electric amphibious aircraft. During last week's Abu Dhabi Air Expo, the company announced its PHA-ZE 100 aircraft would be able to carry 19 passengers at speeds up to 135 knots (155mph) for a range of around 150 kilometers (94 miles).
Even though the aircraft will have a fully battery-electric propulsion system in its initial version, PHA-ZE stands for Passenger Hybrid Aircraft Zero Emissions. An electric motor driving each propeller mounted on a 30-meter (98-foot) wing is shown in published drawings. As an alternative to hydrogen, Jekta may consider using fuel cells to power the vehicle.
As Jetka CEO George Alafinov indicated, the PHA-ZE 100 might not enter service until almost mid-2029 after a full-scale flying prototype is completed. Various prospective operators in northern Europe and the Gulf region have already been contacted by FutureFlight.
Rather than airports and new vertiports, the company argues that bodies of water could expand air transportation more efficiently and sustainably. As well, the company argues that water-based air routes will be competitive with ground-based alternatives, such as trains. As Alafinov noted in an Abu Dhabi, UAE presentation, India changed regulations in 2017 to allow a similar approach, but operators did not launch services due to the limited availability of seaplanes.
With its all-composite fuselage, the PHA-ZE 100 can land directly on the water without needing external floaters. In addition to reducing drag, Alafinov believes that this will enable the plane to land and take off in waters with waves as high as four feet (1.2 meters), minimizing maintenance requirements over traditional metal amphibious aircraft.
Based on the company's projections, the PHA-ZE 100 should be able to be certified under current EASA CS-23 regulations with a maximum takeoff weight of 8,618 kilograms (19,500 pounds). A smaller cabin or cargo capacity is being offered in other variants of the aircraft.
As of now, charging the batteries should take no longer than 45 minutes with current technology, and a battery replacement process is currently being designed. Seaplanes travel an average distance of just 71 kilometers, according to the report.
A new investor is needed to support Jekta's project right now. Pipistrel, a subsidiary of Textron based in Europe, has stated that the company collaborates with Swiss Aeropole at Payerne Airport.