Australian Rex signs electric partnership

Australian regional carrier Rex is strengthening competition with Virgin Australia and Qantas. (PHOTO: Rex)

Rex and Australia-headquartered Dovetail Electric Aviation have announced the formation of a strategic partnership to pioneer the conversion of turbine-powered aircraft to emission-free electric propulsion. The partnership, which will operate under the Dovetail brand, will develop and certify the retrofit of electric motors on legacy aircraft, initially for regional and general aviation aircraft. Dovetail was created in 2021 by Sydney Aviation Holdings, owners of Sydney Seaplanes and Dante Aeronautical, a start-up pioneering disruptive electric aviation concepts, with operations in both Spain and Australia.

Sydney Aviation Holdings CEO Aaron Shaw said: “We are extremely pleased to be collaborating with Rex Airlines and Dante Aeronautical on an initiative that promises to put Australia firmly on the map as a world leader in conversion, certification and maintenance of electric aircraft. . The fact that the first commercial electric flight is taking place at such a historically significant aviation site as Rose Bay only adds to our excitement for this groundbreaking project.

Rex will provide an aircraft to serve as a testbed for the project as well as a set of support facilities including engineering expertise, technical assistance, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and storage and accommodation of the workforce.

John Sharp, Vice President of Rex Airlines, said, “Rex is both proud and excited to be at the forefront of developments in sustainable regional aviation and to contribute to our national efforts to reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Regional airlines operating short sectors as well as seaplanes and training aircraft will be the first to adopt electric battery propulsion. Australia, with its very strong use of regional aviation and large number of conversion-capable aircraft, is a perfect incubator for the electric aviation industry. Significantly reduced operating costs for electric aircraft will also help boost regional aviation services between communities not currently served by scheduled flights.

“We are delighted to partner with Sydney Seaplanes and Dante Aeronautical in Dovetail Electric Aviation and provide our aviation and engineering expertise to advance its progress, while accelerating Rex’s journey to a zero-emissions future,” Sharp said. “Dovetail promises to deliver the holy grail in aviation: true durability; less maintenance and operating costs and also less waste depending on the reuse of existing aircraft.

Once the necessary IP and certification approvals have been established, Dovetail will open conversion centers in Australia, Europe and Singapore, with the United States and the Middle East also under consideration.

Converting turbine-powered aircraft to electric propulsion promises to bring zero-emissions aviation to the mainstream much faster and more cost-effectively than via newly fielded electric aircraft. Dovetail expects to achieve certification for converted aircraft within four years, compared to more than eight to ten years for clean-sheet electric aircraft, and at a fraction of the certification costs. The aircraft will be converted using MagniX engines for which Dovetail is the exclusive distributor in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Mediterranean Europe. Converted aircraft will be 30-40% quieter than their donor aircraft and benefit from operating costs reduced by approximately 40%.

Dovetail will certify an aircraft’s entire propulsion system by integrating the electric motor, battery packs and hydrogen fuel cells into a “powertrain” on an existing airframe. In doing so, it will generate unique intellectual property in conversion engineering, test technology and power plant machine learning to optimize plant performance. The company has established customer relationships or memorandums of understanding with a range of airlines, including Australian seaplanes Sydney, Alt Air, SeaAir Pacific and FLYM Group, Europeans Volotea, Air Nostrum, Isla Air, Monte and Hong Kong Seaplanes.

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