Heart’s desire

Heart’s desire

Heart Aerospace is on a mission to take off with truly sustainable air travel. With a new aircraft design, a raft of pre-orders and an increasingly environmentally-conscious consumer market, is there anything that can stop this ambitious Swedish start-up flying high? Simon Newitt, Chief Commercial Officer, says it’s time to fasten your seat belt.

“Let’s clear that up right away.”

The elephant has barely even entered the room before Simon Newitt ushers it out.

Faced with a question regarding Heart Aerospace’s switch from its original ES-19 all-electric plane design to the new, hybrid-electric ES-30 – combining batteries and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) - Newitt, appropriately, gets to the heart of the matter.

It’s a really viable commercial solution to help tackle aviation’s ‘big issue’, introducing the world’s greenest, most affordable, and most accessible form of air transport.

“It’s the more viable solution for zero-emission regional flights, from a commercial, regulatory and operational perspective,” he explains, quashing the implication that this could be seen as a “step back” for aviation’s anointed electric trailblazer.

“We originally created the ES-19 aircraft to be EASA CS-23 certifiedi and tailor-made for the market in the Nordics. But, after launching the design in 2019, we started hearing from airlines around the world. To make an aircraft that could fly everywhere, we needed to increase the luggage capacity to give airlines network flexibility, which makes it challenging to comply with the CS-23 maximum take-off weight limit of 8,600 kg.”

“So, it became obvious we needed to make a change.”

Appealing proposition

This gave Heart a problem, albeit a very nice one.

To meet market demand they had to build a ‘bigger bus’ than their popular 19 PAX design… with fuel being arguably the first piece of the puzzle to address.

“Planes require significant fuel reserves,” Newitt notes, “in case they have to adopt a holding pattern, or, for example, divert due to bad weather. With the regulated 45 minutes of reserves, and 185-kilometer capacity needed, the range of the ES-19, which could fly 400 kilometers with 30-minute reserves, dropped to about 150 kilometers. That simply wasn’t enough.

“The ES-30’s architecture solves that problem, while also giving us greater passenger loads (30 people), room for a lavatory, overhead bin space, a spacious cargo hold, and much greater market appeal.”

“As such, it’s a really viable commercial solution to help tackle aviation’s ‘big issue’, introducing the world’s greenest, most affordable, and most accessible form of air transport.”

“In other words, a new standard for an industry that must transform.”

And, with that, it’s goodbye Mr. Elephant.

There is no safer way to travel than by plane.

Industry backing

Heart Aerospace, and Newitt, have an abundance of ambition.

The firm was founded in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2018 as a spin-off of the Elise research program, an initiative funded by the Swedish Government through the Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova. It gathered seed funding in 2019, was awarded a 2.5 million euro grant from the European Investment Council as part of the European Green Deal in 2020, and reached its first significant commercial milestone in 2021. That year saw both United and Mesa Airlines invest in the business, as well as signaling their own electric intent with a purchase order for 200 ES-19 aircraft, including an option for an additional 100 planes.

These agreements have now been transferred to the ES-30 (unveiled in September 2022) and followed by an order of 30 units from Air Canada, in addition to letters of intent from airlines such as Icelandair, SAS, Braathens Regional Airlines, New Zealand’s Sounds Air, and Seven Air from Portugal.

An impressive show of support for a start-up in an industry dominated by Goliaths (namely Boeing and Airbus), suggesting that this David is clearly not to be underestimated.

“Absolutely not,” responds Newitt with a smile, adding that his team boasts “hundreds of years of industry experience” and is “laser focused” on bringing the ES-30 to market and “leading the revolution in sustainable, regional air travel”.

Image credit: Heart Aerospace
Image credit: Heart Aerospace
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Going the distance

So, if the chances are that your first ever electric flight will be onboard a Heart plane, what awaits you?

Well, firstly, a wait.

The ES-19 was scheduled for entry to service in 2026, but the move to the larger ES-30 – a ‘shoulder-wing’ style aircraft – pushes the commercial launch back to 2028. Testing and certification will now start in 2026, with the sourcing of suppliers and partners for the systems and components currently underway.

Newitt admits it’s difficult to disclose technical details when the project remains at a “preliminary design review stage”, but is clear of the performance customers can expect; “Quiet and comfortable electric flights onboard the ES-30, with zero operational emissions.”

The range, he says, is 200 kilometers flying on all-electric mode, with four electric motors driving propellers. This will be the operational norm. The extended range, tapping into the turbo generators of the hybrid system, is 400 kilometers with 30 passengers, with the flexibility to fly up to 800 kilometers carrying 25 passengers, all with the required airline reserves.

“This ability, added on to the fact that these planes carry greater passenger loads than the ES-19, makes a much better business case for the airlines,” he adds. “And, at the end of the day, airlines may want to transition to more sustainable operations, but they have to make money while doing so.

“With the ES-30 they can.”

Safe bet

The question is then, will the passenger demand be sufficient?

Newitt talks of the rapid development, and adoption, of electric cars as laying the ground for other transport modes… but there’s a leap of faith between battery power on terra firma and in the skies, surely?

Bearing that stark reality in mind, will customers be reticent, or raring to go?

“Flying has become almost a democratic right over the past couple of decades,” he responds. “Accessible, affordable and with a huge network of routes – it’s available to all. But we’ve seen how increased environmental awareness is impacting the desire to fly. In Sweden a social movement called ‘flyskam’ – flight shame – is gathering pace, for example. In short, people still want to take to the skies, but don’t want to pollute them. That’s a key driver for the development of zero-emission solutions.”

It’s a major investment but a necessary one in keeping with our ambitious plans to help populate our skies with small, efficient, environmentally friendly planes for the masses.

So, the desire is there, but what about the safety?

“There is no safer way to travel than by plane,” Newitt smiles, “and the reason for that is the focus on stringent regulations, testing and certification. An electric plane, like the ES-30, will go through certification processes equally demanding as those for conventionally fueled aircraft. That’s why we start testing in 2026 but the entry to service isn’t until 2028. These things take time, but the result of that, for the entire industry, is a safe, reliable and robust aircraft. Our passengers will be aware of that, and very accustomed to electric transport by that point, so I don’t see that as a problem.

“This is the change they want, and the industry needs.”

Image credit: Heart Aerospace
Image credit: Heart Aerospace
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Northern Runway clear for takeoff

As Newitt points out though, change takes time, and money, but Heart is committed to investing on both fronts to enable “a new normal of sustainable regional flights connecting communities”.

Alongside the expected aircraft development costs, the firm has also announced the creation of the “world’s first commercial electric aircraft industry” hub – christened The Northern Runway – at Säve airport, in Gothenburg, Sweden. Essentially operating as Heart’s HQ, the campus will feature state-of-the-art offices, knowledge-sharing, production and flight test facilities.

“It’s a major investment,” Newitt remarks, “but a necessary one in keeping with our ambitious plans to help populate our skies with small, efficient, environmentally friendly planes for the masses.”

To do that, he says, the business has to grow, and quickly, boosting numbers from the 130 members of staff today to around 500 by 2025. The first phase of the development is scheduled to be finalized by mid-2024.

Newitt’s conviction, and that of Heart’s, appears absolutely bullet-proof. It’s not a question of ‘if’ they can do this, it seems, but only ‘how quickly’ and ‘how much’ of the electric aviation market they can secure as first movers.

“I want to be humble,” he concludes, “but we really think we can change the world of aviation, preserving the joy of flying for future generations. We’re ready to do this.”

“Mark my words, you’re going to be hearing a lot more about Heart Aerospace in the years to come.”

Image credit: Heart Aerospace
Image credit: Heart Aerospace
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Onboard the E-30 – technical specifications

Capacity

30 passengers (typical)

Range

200 km all electric
400 km hybrid-electric
800 km hybrid-electric 25pax

Propulsion

4 electric motors

Energy source

Batteries (primary)
Reserve-hybrid turbogenerators

Max altitude

20,000 ft

Required runway length

1,100 m

Turnaround time

30 min (fast charge)

Enter into service

2028

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