By Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
The First Passenger Flight With an Electric Aircraft in Iceland
Last week Icelandair, Iceland’s national airline, made the first flight in Iceland operated by an electric aircraft.
Participating in this event as the first passengers to fly on the 100% electric aircraft were the President and Prime Minister of Iceland. The aircraft used was a Pipistrel Velis Electro, license plate TF-KWH, from the Slovenian manufacturing company Pipistrel. The Velis Electro was the first two-seat, electric-powered aircraft ever certified, fully approved for pilot training in daytime VFR operations and whose dimensions are similar to the aircraft that flight academies use for flight training.
The plane will be used for flight training, but it is also expected that tourist flights with this electric plane in Iceland can be purchased and the experience of traveling in a zero-emission plane can be experienced.
These are the first steps on an important path toward more environmentally friendly aviation, and pilot training for these electric aircraft is seen as the first step in a broader transformation of the aviation industry globally.
Icelandair has set ambitious new targets to reduce carbon emissions, committing, in line with the entire aviation industry, to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, including setting a medium-term target to reduce the airline’s carbon emissions by 50 percent per operational ton kilometer (OTK – measuring carbon emissions against passengers and cargo carried) by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.
Iceland is a perfect country for the transition to electric aircraft due to its short domestic routes, location between Europe and North America, and access to green electricity in the country. Iceland generates 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources: 75 percent from large hydroelectric plants and 25 percent from geothermal energy.
The safety standard for this type of electric aircraft is clearly the same as for “traditional” ones. As stated on the Pipistrel website, one battery pack is placed in the nose of the aircraft and the second behind the cabin. This ensures redundancy of the power source: if a battery fails, the malfunctioning one is automatically disconnected from the system. A single battery is capable of operating autonomously and has sufficient power capacity to sustain the ascent and continuation of the flight.
The Rafmagnsflug ehf. company, founded in late 2021 by Matthías Sveinbjörnsson and Friðrik Palsson, who had previously worked on importing this type of aircraft to Iceland, brought the first electric plane to Iceland with the goal of taking an initiative toward aviation energy exchange, training personnel in this new technology and making it known to the nation.
The event’s major sponsors come from aviation, airport operations, power generation, and tourism, such as Icelandair, Isavia, Landsvirkjun, and Hotel Rangá. Other sponsors include Landsbankinn, Geirfugl ATO, the Reykjavik Flight Academy and the Iceland Aviation Academy, along with Matthías, Friðrik and Herjólfur Guðbjartsson.