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NASA project coming to Moses Lake

UPDATED: Fri., April 29, 2022

By Charles H. Featherstone Columbia Basin Herald

MOSES LAKE – Electric airplanes are coming back to Moses Lake.

Everett-based electric aircraft engine maker MagniX announced on Thursday that it is partnering with aircraft testing and certification company AeroTEC to modify, certify and test a De Haviland Dash 7 aircraft as part of NASA’s Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration project.

“It is a big deal,” said AeroTEC President and CEO Lee Human. “Developing this new technology for electric propulsion systems is not easy.”

NASA awarded MagniX a $74.3 million contract last fall to help develop and improve electric aircraft technology. Under the contract, AeroTEC and MagniX will replace two of the Dash 7’s four combustion engines with electric engines, as well as oversee testing and certification of the aircraft, with the first flight expected in 2025.

“This aircraft will be a hybrid,” Human said. “It’s a more common-sense approach as a first step, because some battery technologies are not there yet for an aircraft of this size.”

Human said the hybrid approach also reduces some of the risk involved with a fully electric airplane while reducing operating costs.

AeroTEC worked with MagniX in 2019 and 2020 to oversee the modification and testing of a fully electric Cassna Caravan, which took to the skies above Moses Lake its maiden flight in May 2020.

Human said he expects the Dash 7, which will be provided by the commercial and charter carrier Air Tindi, of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, will be delivered in the fall with modifications to begin soon after the plane is on the ground in Moses Lake.

“We’re really pleased to have been selected,” Human said. “We have a history with MagniX and we have their trust, and to extend that to NASA is a really big deal.”

Human said the project, which will also give both companies the opportunity to learn the kinds of support and operational issues a hybrid electric aircraft will need in the future as electric power expands into aviation.

“We have the chops to do this, and it truly leverages every aspect of AeroTEC – making parts, overseeing the program, modifying the aircraft, doing the flight testing,” Human said. “It really leverages every piece of our company.”

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