Aussie Airline Rex to Retrofit Its Fleet With Electric-Propulsion Engines

Aussie Airline Rex to Retrofit Its Fleet With Electric-Propulsion Engines
Image: Rex Airlines/Gizmodo Australia

Australian regional airline Rex has plans to retrofit some of its fleet, converting a number of planes to electric-propulsion engines.

As reported by ABC News, Rex Airlines reckons the move is one that signals the future of air travel. If the airline goes ahead with the move, it could see electric planes trialled as soon as 2024.

“We will be doing trials in 2024, with a real aircraft, where we’ll swap out the existing engine, which burns jet fuel,” Rex deputy chairman John Sharp is quoted as saying.

This is massive news. Electric-propulsion engines come with the promise of being quieter, less polluting and easier to maintain than existing jet engines.

To make this happen, Rex and Australian-headquartered Dovetail Electric Aviation have formed a “strategic partnership” to pioneer the conversion of turbine-powered aircraft to electric, nil emission propulsion. Together, they will develop and certify the retrofitting of electric engines onto legacy aircraft, initially for regional and general aviation aircraft.

“Regional airlines operating short sectors as well as seaplanes and training aircraft will be the early adopters of electric battery propulsion,” Sharp said in a statement provided to Gizmodo Australia. “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.”

Much like electric cars, electric planes have a promise to be (in the future) much better for the environment.

The conversion of turbine aircraft to electric propulsion promises to bring zero emissions aviation into the mainstream much faster and more cost-effectively than via newly commissioned electrical planes. Dovetail (the name the partnership will operate under) expects to achieve certification for converted aircraft within four years, compared with more than eight to ten years for clean sheet electric aircraft, and at a fraction of the certification costs.

While the planes will obviously be cheaper to operate, the retrofitted aircraft are expected to be safer and quieter for people living near airports.

The plus side with a regional airline taking the lead in electrification is that range anxiety will be less of a fear. There ain’t no chargers in the sky.