The partnership between Rolls-Royce and airframer Tecnam was announced last year, however they’ve just connected the dots, expanding on Rolls-Royce 2019 partnership with Widerøe. Their combined goal is to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for Widerøe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, and a plan to enter revenue service in 2026. The idea of electric aircraft becoming commonplace has been bandied around for quite a few years now, but this could be the first partnership to actually materialise in just 5-years time.
Stein Nilsen, Chief Executive, Widerøe said: “Norway’s extensive network of short take-off and landing airports is ideal for zero emissions technologies. This aircraft shows how quickly new technology can and will be developed, and that we are on track with our ambition of flying with zero emissions around 2025.”
Rob Watson, Director – Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “Electrification will help us deliver our ambition to enable the markets in which we operate achieve net zero carbon by 2050. This collaboration strengthens our existing relationships with Tecnam and Widerøe as we look to explore what is needed to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market. It also demonstrates Rolls-Royce’s ambitions to be the leading supplier of all-electric and hybrid electric propulsion and power systems across multiple aviation markets.”
Norway itself has lofty ambitions, it plans for all domestic flights to be zero emissions by 2040, expediting the requirement for electric aircraft. Due to its topography, Norway makes extensive use of aviation for regional connectivity, so it makes for an ideal landscape for such a project. Rolls-Royce will bring its expertise in propulsion and power systems, Tecnam will provide aircraft design, manufacturing and certification capabilities. Widerøe’s mission will be to ensure that all competence and requirements of an airline operator are in place for entry into service in 2026.
Andreas Aks, Chief Strategy Officer, Widerøe, added: “We are highly excited to be offered the role as launch operator, but also humble about the challenges of putting the world’s first zero emissions aircraft into service. Our mission is to have all new capabilities, processes and procedures required for a zero emissions operator, designed and approved in parallel with the aircraft being developed and certified.”
Fabio Russo, Chief Project R&D and Product Development, Tecnam, said: “It is incredible to see the interest around the P-Volt, not only coming from regional airlines, but also from smart mobility-based companies. This last year has demonstrated the importance of promoting capillary connections between small communities, while reducing the congestion of the main hubs. The P-Volt, like the P2012 Traveller today, will perfectly fit the scope of this programme. We are honoured and pleased to see the level of enthusiasm Widerøe and our partner Rolls-Royce are dedicating to this project.”
But what of Widerøe, the one airline you may have heard of but not know a lot about? Before the pandemic, Widerøe was actually fairly busy offering around 400 much-needed flights per day using a network of 44 airports, with 74% of the flights covering distances of less than 275 km. Amazingly, the shortest flight durations are between seven and fifteen minutes.
Rolls-Royce and Widerøe’s joint research programme will evaluate and develop electrical aircraft concepts that would fulfil the Norwegian ambition of having the first electrified aircraft in ordinary domestic scheduled flights by 2030 and 80% emission reduction in domestic flights by 2040.