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Climate change is forcing the aviation business into the biggest transition of its existence. World leaders are gathering this week in Scotland for COP26, the landmark United Nations climate summit on implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit human-contributed warming. The outcome all points in one specific direction for air transport.

“We see the green technology as the road that we have to go on in order to keep our aircraft and products relevant,” said Todd Young, retired De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Chief Operating Officer and now head of its coming hybrid-electric turboprop demonstrator program in a recent interview with The Air Current. “For me, it’s a protection of our product line and showing our customers we are focused on the future of what aircraft are going to have to have and possess in order to continue flying.”

Young’s “have to have” is foundational to De Havilland’s assumptions about a future for aircraft manufacturers where there is greater regulation, restriction and cost attached to flying under increasing public pressure to reduce CO2 emissions. The days of increasingly de-regulated flying are at an end.

DHC and Pratt & Whitney Canada are preparing to heavily modify a retired Dash 8-100 turboprop that will see half of its traditional propulsion replaced with a hybrid design. For the project, Pratt is designing a “new small engine” for sipping fuel at altitude. The 39-seat aircraft will have 20 to 24 battery packs to drive a 1 megawatt electric motor working in tandem with the new engine, providing the necessary horsepower when it’s needed most — at takeoff and climb.

The technology is within reach for regional flying with start-ups riding a wave of battery and electric motor development pioneered by the automotive industry. “We know that it’s going to find its way into our category of aircraft early in the adoption cycle,” said Philippe Poutissou, DHC’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “So I think it’s important that we participate because like it or not, it’s going to affect our market.”

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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