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Transport / SIC transport chairman keen to see council explore making inter-island flights greener

Trials of a small plane part-powered by electricity have been taking place from Orkney

The plane at Kirkwall Airport. Photo: Colin Keldie, courtesy of SATE.

A CLOSE eye is being kept locally on Scotland’s first trials of an electric-powered plane in Orkney.

A modified six-seat Cessna 337 which runs on both battery power and a conventional combustion engine has started making short haul flights between Orkney and Wick.

The plane is being run by aviation company Ampaire in conjunction with Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) as part of tests exploring making short haul flights greener.

One of the engines in the Cessna plane was replaced with an electric motor.

Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said the local authority is keen to look at whether electric technology could be rolled out on flights north of Orkney.

The council currently operates flights to Fair Isle and Foula.

“The launch of Scotland’s first electric powered aircraft is an extremely exciting step forward in terms of reducing emissions on aircraft,” Thomson said.

“While the technology is still in the early stages of development and roll out, we will investigate keenly on how such a model may work for our inter island service in Shetland going forward as we look to reach our own climate change targets.”

The trial is part of the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) project, which is being led by HIAL.

Funded by government body UK Research and Innovation, SATE is based at Kirkwall Airport, which is also home to the UK’s first operationally based low-carbon aviation test centre.

“This is an important first step to decarbonising Scottish regional aviation, while lowering the cost of air service,” Ampaire founder and CEO Kevin Noertker said.

“It’s a model for what Ampaire will be able to offer regional carriers everywhere.”

Scottish Government minister for transport Graeme Dey said: “The Kirkwall test centre and companies such as Ampaire put Scotland at the forefront of the transition to low-carbon aviation.

“These demo flights are an important step towards delivering our commitment to decarbonise scheduled passenger flights within Scotland by 2040.”

HIAL chair Lorna Jack said: “Our involvement means we can support innovative projects from our partners to achieve a shared goal, decarbonise our operations and deliver environmentally sustainable aviation.

“Our aim is for HIAL to be at the forefront of Scotland’s efforts to transition to a low carbon future.”

Loganair, which operates flights from Sumburgh Airport, previously said it is confident it can fully convert its fleet to net zero carbon emissions over the next 20 years.

It also introduced a £1 carbon offset charge to all fares as part of plans to become carbon neutral by 2040.

The funds collected will go towards a programme of carbon offset measures.