Scotland’s first electric plane launches from Orkney to Wick

The electric-powered aircraft is taking part in the first set of demonstration flights in the UK.

Scotland’s first electric plane launches from Orkney to Wick SATE

The first electric plane to take to the skies over Scotland has been launched in Orkney.

The electric-powered aircraft is taking part in the first set of demonstration flights in the UK as part of a move to transition to sustainable aviation.

It crossed the Pentland Firth from the island’s Kirkwall Airport to the regional Wick John O’Groats Airport in the north of mainland Scotland. 

Ampaire launched the trials, the first to operate on a viable regional airline route, as part of the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE), project being led by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL).

The Ampaire Electric EEL aircraft, a modified six-seat Cessna 337, runs on battery power and a conventional combustion engine.

It has been funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, SATE is based at Kirkwall Airport and forms part of the UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge.

The challenge has been created to test low-carbon aviation technologies and investigate the airport infrastructure necessary to support sustainable aviation.

Kirkwall was chosen as it is the home to the UK’s first operationally based low-carbon aviation test centre.

The company is also currently developing a line of hybrid electric powertrain upgrades that it hopes will reduce emissions and operating costs by as much as 25% and allow regional airlines to better serve lifeline routes in Scotland and around the world.

Ampaire test pilot Justin Gillen commented: “The flight to Wick went without a hitch, flying at 3500 feet and 120 miles per hour.  

“The Electric EEL is easy to fly and we’ve achieved a total five hours here so far.”

Kevin Noertker, Ampaire founder and CEO, said: “This is an important first step to decarbonizing Scottish regional aviation, while lowering the cost of air service.

“It’s a model for what Ampaire will be able to offer regional carriers everywhere.

“With COemissions rising 70 percent faster than predicted, transition to zero emission technology is critical. We’re pleased to be taking a big step in that direction here in Scotland.”

Welcoming the initiative, Graeme Dey, Scottish Government Minister for Transport said the flights were an ‘important step’.

He said: “The Kirkwall test centre and companies such as Ampaire put Scotland at the forefront of the transition to low-carbon aviation.

“These demo flights are an important step towards delivering our commitment to decarbonize scheduled passenger flights within Scotland by 2040.”

And Lorna Jack, chair of HIAL, said“The SATE project is a very important collaboration for HIAL. Our involvement means we can support innovative projects from our partners to achieve a shared goal, decarbonize our operations and deliver environmentally sustainable aviation. “

“Our aim is for HIAL to be at the forefront of Scotland’s efforts to transition to a low carbon future.”