US regional carrier, Mesa Airlines, is excited to fly Heart Aerospace’s 19-seat electric aircraft. Billed as the world’s first electric regional aircraft, Mesa could fly up to 100 planes, with the first coming in 2026, assuming all goes well with the building and certification of the aircraft. Mesa’s CEO, Jonathan Ornstein, is excited about the opportunities the aircraft will reopen in commercial aviation.
Mesa Airlines is looking forward to electric regional aircraft
In July, Mesa and United Airlines announced investment plans in Heart Aerospace, which is looking to make electric aircraft. The manufacturer is building the world’s first electric 19-seat aircraft, the ES-19. Subject to certain terms, Mesa plans to add 100 of these aircraft to its regional fleet under a partnership with United Airlines.
Mesa’s CEO, Jonathan Ornstein, spoke at Cowen’s 14th Annual Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference. When asked about the ES-19, he expressed a lot of excitement about the opportunities the aircraft opens up:
“What really attracted me to, for example the Heart aircraft is that, that would reopen so much regional aviation that has been lost due to the fact that this aircraft should be able to operate at significantly lower cost…Mesa operated over 200 19-seat airplanes at one point, and now there are, literally, no 19-seat aircraft being operated in the United States when there was once, literally, in the 1000s.”
Generally speaking, while there are exceptions, the smallest aircraft most commercial passengers will ever find themselves onboard is a 50-seater ERJ145 or a CRJ200, though both of those aircraft are also on their way out. There are some airlines, like Cape Air, which are flying smaller aircraft that seat nine passengers.
The opportunities to reopen more commercial aviation
Air travel has largely become more accessible. More communities in the US have seen new and increased services from airlines, and air travel has gone from a luxury in its early days to something that most Americans are likely to partake in at some point in their lives.
One area of aviation that has, in essence, regressed is services to rural communities. As aircraft have grown larger, some destinations are too small to make a 50-seater operate profitably. While there are programs like the Essential Air Service (EAS) that helps bring commercial aviation to smaller cities, this program has its limits.
Mr. Ornstein spoke more about these kinds of destinations, stating the following:
“What really pushed the aircraft over the proverbial hump – I was driving back and forth during COVID from LA to Phoenix and I stopped at the Blythe Airport. My first airline before Mesa, Air LA, we used to fly a nine seat aircraft to Blythe Airport twice a day. I went out there and we made a stop along the way, which by the way, is on a road called Mesa Drive, and it’s unbelievable. We get out there and the airport is abandoned. The terminal building is abandoned. There’s broken car, broken aircraft around the field, and I just did a video with my phone and said ‘Here’s what we are going to revive. This is what we’re going to do, places like Blythe will get service again, once we have 19 seat electric aircraft available,’ and there are dozens and dozens of cities like that throughout the United States.”
Expected to have an approximate range of 250 miles, the aircraft will be used to connect short-haul regional destinations economically. It will also do so in a comfortable fashion for passengers, including a quiet ride with less vibration and noise, which should be a benefit not just for passengers onboard but also for the communities where the aircraft will arrive and depart from.
Building up electric aircraft
Electric aircraft are part of the airline industry’s push to become more sustainable. However, the battery technology is not advanced enough to power a 300-seat aircraft flying from New York to London. But, within five years, it could be ready to power 19-seat planes.
Regional aircraft like the ES-19 are where endeavors like this start. Without the investment in companies like Heart Aerospace, it becomes incredibly challenging to scale up the technology to a point where it can power large aircraft flying long distances.
Heart Aerospace and Mesa have to do a lot of work to get electric aircraft into service. This includes working with airport partners to get the charging technology in place. Revitalizing air operations in communities like Farmington, New Mexico, or Blythe, California, will not happen overnight. Still, Mesa is more than excited to jump in and make a targeted effort to bring more air service to more small communities. This has been the airline’s mission, and it is only furthering that with the investment in the ES-19.
Are you looking forward to flying the ES-19 to smaller airports? Could your community benefit from the ES-19? Let us know in the comments!