Roel Hellemons © Twycer /
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Three regional Dutch airports, Eindhoven Airport, Groningen Airport Eelde and Rotterdam The Hague Airport, are going to jointly test electric regular commercial flights. They will be supported in this by the Royal Schiphol Group and the Netherlands Aerospace Center (NLR). The first electric flight should take place within five years. The idea for this collaboration started in Eindhoven, says Roel Hellemons. “Thanks to the short lines of communication with Brainport Development and the Brabant Development Agency (BOM), we were able to set up a research project in no time. Then we also entered into a collaboration with the other airports,” he says. “That’s how we are bolstering each other. Everyone has their own strength.”

The individual regional airports were all already looking into sustainable aviation themselves. Hellemons sees electric flights as part of a larger palette of possibilities to make aviation more sustainable. Electric flights are particularly suitable for short-haul flights with small aircraft. For large Boeings flying to America, other sustainable solutions need to be developed, such as synthetic kerosene.

Read more about the trial at the regional airports here.

Why are you now focusing on electric flights?

“Electric flight is a sustainable form of mobility,” states Hellemons. “In addition to the sustainability aspect, it also provides a completely new mode of transport. Various regions in Europe are not very well connected at the moment. A car journey often takes a long time and is bad for the environment. Trains frequently have no direct connections, so passengers often have to change trains. A short, electric flight is ideal then. It is an addition to the existing possibilities. Better connections between important regions are good for the economy.”

“In order to roll out electric flights on a larger scale, the process at the airport needs to be designed in an optimal way. Passengers do not want to be at the airport hours in advance for a short flight. By doing that, they are no longer efficient. We want the experience for passengers to be as pleasant as possible.”

Read more about sustainable aviation on IO here.

Why are ideas like this being hatched in Eindhoven?

“I myself am very interested in innovation and I see opportunities in our region precisely because of the knowledge that is present in the field of charging solutions and the automotive industry. Various studies and trials are already being conducted in the Netherlands in the sphere of sustainable aviation. The focus is very often on technology, for example the development of new aircraft. Around these new types of airplanes, a great deal must also be organized and researched. For example, when it comes to charging infrastructure or the logistical process of boarding and disembarking at an airport. We did not want to wait to find solutions until these kinds of aircraft were already on the market. That is why we have started doing this now. We want to examine the feasibility of flying electrically and really test electric flights within a commercial environment.”

What is the role of Eindhoven Airport in the project?

“In the Brainport region, there is a lot of expertise in the automotive field. Aviation and the automotive industry have not really found each other yet, but this could be useful in the future. For example, where battery technology is concerned. We see various opportunities for the fast charging of aircraft. We want to make the best possible use of the knowledge that we already have. Brabant has a large ecosystem centred around high-tech manufacturing and maintenance industries. That offers opportunities for SMEs and start-ups in the region that want to, and are capable of, contributing to electric aviation in any way they can.”

Also read about: SPIKE’s Modular Battery System.

“In addition, we have a good relationship with the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Which is a very fine sparring partner, for instance, professors Carlo van de Weijer and Maarten Steinbuch. They have the courage to think about the future. That also applies to student teams such as Falcon Electric Aviation. That also fits in very well into this region.”

Also read: Combustion engine out, electric version in: first clean plane in the air by next year

How do you envisage the future?

“I hope that electric flights will become an important part of Eindhoven Aiport in the future. I can envision a network of daily, electric flights between important regions in Europe. These flights will then be interesting for both business and private passengers to get to their destination quickly and easily.”