The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Swiss Start-up Unveils Plans and Seeks Backers for Electric Seaplane

Swiss start-up Jekta has unveiled plans for an electric amphibious aircraft that it says could transform flight connections between oceanside communities and those with access to suitable rivers and lakes. In a presentation at last week’s Abu Dhabi Air Expo event, the company said its PHA-ZE 100 aircraft will offer a range of around 150 kilometers (94 miles) carrying up to 19 passengers at speeds of up to 135 knots (155 mph).

The name PHA-ZE stands for Passenger Hydro Aircraft Zero Emissions and the aircraft will have a fully battery-electric propulsion system. Published drawings show 10 propellers,  each with its own 180-kilowatt electric motor, mounted on a 30-meter (98-foot) wing. Jekta has also indicated it may consider an alternative hydrogen-powered version using fuel cells.

According to CEO George Alafinov, Jetka will need another five years to build a full-scale flying prototype, and he indicated that it might be almost mid-2029 before the PHA-ZE 100 is in production and enters service. He told FutureFlight that the company has already held discussions with prospective operators of the seaplane in the Gulf region and northern Europe.

The company argues that air transportation could be more efficiently and sustainably expanded by using bodies of water instead of airports and new vertiports. It also maintains that the new water-based air routes would compete well with ground-based alternatives, including trains. In a presentation in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Alafinov pointed to India, noting that in 2017 the government there changed regulations to permit this approach only to find that operators have not launched services due to the absence of suitable seaplanes.

Jekta is proposing to manufacture the PHA-ZE 100 with an all-composite fuselage that can land directly on water without external “floater” structures. Alafinov said this approach reduces drag and will allow the aircraft to land and take off in waters with a wave height of up to almost four feet (1.2 meters), as well as minimizing maintenance requirements compared with those for traditional metal amphibious airplanes.

With a projected maximum takeoff weight that should not exceed 8,618 kilograms (19,000 pounds), Jekta expects to be able to certify the PHA-ZE 100 under existing EASA CS-23 regulations. It is proposing other variants of the aircraft that could carry cargo or a smaller number of executive travelers in a more spacious cabin.

The company estimates that with current technology it would take no more than 45 minutes to fully recharge the batteries, and it is designing a process for changing out batteries between flights. It claims that the current average travel distance for seaplane flights is only 71 kilometers.

Jekta is currently seeking new investors to support its project. The company, which is based at the Swiss Aeropole business park at Payerne Airport, has indicated that it has collaborated with Textron’s Europe-based electric aviation subsidiary Pipistrel.