United Airlines has announced an order for 100 Heart Aerospace ES-19 electric aircraft. The order also has an option for up to 100 additional aircraft. These nineteen passenger aircraft will be operated by Mesa Airlines on United Airlines regional routes.
The Aircraft Mission
The ES-19 aircraft will operate short-haul regional operations of up to 250 miles. These aircraft will carry up to 19 passengers connecting outlying airports with mainline airports that United Airlines operates out of. Over the past two decades, regional aircraft have grown in capacity from 10 – 19 passengers to the 76 passenger regional aircraft of today. The upper limit of regional aircraft of 76 passengers is due to the scope clause in airline pilot contracts allowing these aircraft to be flown by regional airline pilots at a lower cost. Introducing a 19-passenger regional aircraft is not a step backward in capacity but a big step forward in technology and the environment. The ES-19 aircraft are expected to be in service on United Airlines routes by 2026. United Airlines wants to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Typical routes could like like this:
- San Francisco (SFO) to Modesto City Airport (MOD) and
- Chicago (ORD) to Purdue University Airport (LAF).
United Airlines Is Betting On Technology
The order for the ES-19 electric regional aircraft follows the order for the Boom SuperSonic transport. At the other end of the speed spectrum, United will enter the supersonic transport segment. According to Boom Supersonic, these aircraft will be environmentally conscious which was a huge problem with the BAC Concorde. Boom Supersonic says:
“We are conducting an exhaustive search of the most promising present and future sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) projects to help address our airplanes’ greenhouse gas footprints. Today, the best SAF on the market offer an 80% reduction in lifecycle CO2 over conventional jet fuel. In January 2019, we successfully tested XB-1’s engines using a blend of fuel that was ~80% SAF from waste animal fats. This test program gave us valuable information about how XB-1 engines perform using SAF. In June 2019, we signed a partnership with Prometheus Fuels to deliver low-carbon fuel during the XB-1 program. Prometheus’ technology efficiently converts atmospheric CO2 into jet fuel using clean energy. And we’ve pledged to make the XB-1 ground and flight test program carbon neutral through SAF and carbon offsets.”
Call me impressed. United Airlines is betting on technology at both ends of the transport spectrum. Time will tell if supersonic passenger flights will be sustainable. What needs to be sustainable is passenger transportation that doesn’t impact our environment. Kudos to United Airlines for choosing the ES-19 as a commitment to environmentally friendly flying.