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Helijet eyes electric future, helped by logistics deal with Blade

Blade Urban Mobility will take on marketing and reservations
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A proposed electric helicopter is seen in an artist's rendering. HELIJET VIA THE CANADIAN PRESS

Helijet says it could add electric aircraft to its fleet after making a deal to have marketing, booking and reservations services handled by Blade Urban Mobility.

Helijet chief executive Danny Sitnam said the deal “frees us up” to concentrate on aircraft operations and study new technology without having to deal with the day-to-day business of marketing and managing seat inventory.

“They will take care of our scheduled service so we can concentrate on operations,” he said, noting the companies have a shared goal of incorporating more sustainable technology like electric and hydrogen power in the air-commuter business.

“We have decided to work together now with conventional technologies, hone our systems and processes while we are both trying to get these new technologies integrated into our operations,” Sitnam said. “It seems a good fit.”

The five-year deal will see Blade pay Helijet $12 million US to run its ­scheduled passenger business and use its heliport ­terminals, while Helijet will operate Blade flights on existing and jointly developed new routes.

The deal will also see the firms work together to incorporate electric vertical aircraft into the Helijet fleet when possible.

“Like Danny and the team at Helijet, we recognize EVA’s incredible potential,” said Blade president Melissa Tomkiel. “Together we are committed to making aviation more accessible, and our transition to lower-cost, quiet and emission-free EVA should only serve to increase the number of passengers that travel by air between Helijet and Blade locations and the value proposition to our fliers.”

Helijet will continue to operate its current routes as usual, with Blade using its booking and sales platforms to achieve greater reach into Helijet’s existing and future route network.

The companies anticipate new routes to serve Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and other locations in the Pacific Northwest.

Sitnam said electric vertical aircraft technology will forever change aviation, but he doesn’t expect it will happen for another five to 10 years.

“Helicopters aren’t going away anytime soon,” he said, noting right now the electrical or hydrogen-powered technology that is available limits both payload and range.

But he does expect there will soon be technology that will allow for four-to-six-passenger flights in an urban environment.

Sitnam applauded Harbour Air for its pioneering work on establishing electric-powered commuter flight as a real possibility, and notes his company is part of a consortium looking into the next generation of flight technology.

Helijet is part of Canadian Advanced Air Mobility that was established to streamline development and commercial operations in what’s being called the advanced air mobility sector, which uses zero-emission, electric or hydrogen fuel cells, and vertical-takeoff aircraft to provide transportation, emergency and supply chain services.

aduffy@timescolonist.com