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The future of aviation: WSDOT Aviation facilitates first Electric Aircraft Working Group

Electric aircraft bring exciting possibilities to our state including reductions in noise and air pollution, an increase in options for regional commercial air travel, revitalization of underutilized airports and an opportunity to be a leading state in the electric aircraft industry.

With new technology however, comes many challenges. To explore those, the kickoff of the first Electric Aircraft Working Group (EAWG) meeting in Washington state, held at Zunum Aero Inc. June 13, was facilitated by the Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Division. The EAWG will offer a critical assessment on what will make commercial air travel by electric or hybrid-electric a reality. The meeting brought together experts from the electric aircraft industry, manufacturers, airlines, state representatives, airports and more.

WSDOT Aviation Division was tasked with forming a working group to explore the feasibility of introducing electric and hybrid-electric aircraft in Washington state, following the introduction of House Bill 2295 and Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6106.

This is a unique opportunity for stakeholders to network, share ideas and shape the future of aviation in Washington state. EAWG will report its findings and recommendations to the transportation committees of the legislature by June 30, 2019. “We are excited about the potential use of electric or hybrid-electric aircraft in Washington State,” said David Fleckenstein, Aviation Division Director. “Having the ability to provide a lower cost option for regional commercial air service utilizing electric aircraft could significantly change the dynamics behind our transportation system in regards to how goods and services are provided to consumers. That being said, we clearly understand that with any new technological advancement, comes challenges.” Fleckenstein said the team assembled is actually comprised of both supporters of electric aircraft as well as those with doubts over the near term use of electric aircraft. “Our desire is to truly think through the aircraft certification process, infrastructure requirements, incentives, what other states and countries are doing, the current state of the industry policy changes, and so on…at the end of the day, we want to be postured to be a leader in the field pending the outcomes of the working group.”

Goals of the group include analyzing the current state of the electric-powered aircraft industry and assessing the infrastructure needs related to the use of electric or hybrid-electric aircraft for commercial air travel in Washington state.

An outcome of the kickoff meeting was forming sub-groups to focus on specific issues to allow subject-matter experts to work together and provide detailed input for specific topics.

Topics for the sub-groups included: aircraft manufacturing/certification; airline operations; Washington state impacts; workforce development; emissions/public acceptance and airport and infrastructure.

Attendees of the June 13 kickoff meeting included Boeing, VerteGo Aero, Volta Companies, Faraday Aero, Avista Utilities, Puget Sound Energy, Washington State Department of Commerce, Skywest, Pangborn Memorial Airport, Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines, DiamondStream Partners, Kenmore Air, Federal Aviation Administration, Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing, State Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-48) and State Rep. Mark Hargrove (R-47).

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