The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Surcar Airlines Plans Hydrogen-Powered Canary Island Tourist Flights

Surcar Airlines is aiming to launch zero-emissions regional air services between the Canary Islands with hydrogen-powered Twin Otter amphibious aircraft. Under an agreement announced on August 2, the start-up said it will convert its fleet to use ZeroAvia’s 600-kilowatt ZA600 hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system.

Planned flights will include sightseeing trips between Spain’s Canary Islands off the Atlantic coast of North Africa. Surcar had intended to launch scheduled services in 2022 but has yet to begin operations with an unspecified number of DHC-6-300 twin turboprop seaplanes.

Surcar Airlines has financial backing from several investors, including Danish operator Nordic Seaplanes. “Millions visit each year to see the incredible natural beauty and World Heritage Sites here in the Canary Islands,” said Surcar Airlines CEO and founder Gerardo Morales-Hierro. “Climate change threatens this and our way of life. Working with ZeroAvia will help us to deliver cleaner flights, while also fostering positive impacts on the local community and the environment.”

In December 2021, ZeroAvia signed a memorandum of understanding with De Havilland of Canada, which holds the type certificate for the Twin Otter. The company expects to complete type certification of the ZA600 and will convert a variety of nine- to 19-seat aircraft under supplemental type certificates. It recently completed a series of 10 flight tests using a Dornier 228 aircraft as a technology demonstrator.

Spain Targets Carbon Neutrality for Transport

Spain’s National Energy and Climate Plan aims to achieve a completely carbon-neutral transport system by 2050. Before then, incremental decarbonization is anticipated under the wider European Union target of cutting greenhouse gases by 55 percent by 2030.

According to ZeroAvia, its propulsion systems will be able to support flights up to 300 miles with the nine- to 19-seat aircraft by 2025. The California-based company, which is conducting some development work in the UK, is working on a higher-energy ZA2000 powertrain for 40- to 80-seat aircraft flying up to 700 miles and aims to have this ready to start commercial operations in 2027.

“The Canaries are a perfect use case for the earlier zero-emissions flights, given the opportunity for replacing combustion engines on short island-to-island routes,” said ZeroAvia chief customer officer James Peck. “Developing green options for inter-island travel will help further increase the appeal of one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations.”

According to ZeroAvia, it has secured provisional preorders for nearly 2,000 of its propulsion systems. It holds experimental certificates from the UK Civil Aviation Authority and FAA in the U.S. for test flights with three prototype aircraft. 

Dante Aeronautical has support from Spanish airline Air Nostrum for its plans to develop electric-powered versions of regional airliners including the Twin Otter. Separately, Canadian operator Harbour Air has long had ambitions to convert Beaver and Twin Otter seaplanes to electric propulsion and has been working on these projects with MagniX.