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Australia’s third airline, Rex, bets on electric planes, taking a 20% stake in aviation startup Dovetail

- April 17, 2023 2 MIN READ
Dovetail electric plane
The converted Dovetail electric plane
ASX-listed regional airline REX has taken a 20% stake in electric passenger planes startup Dovetail Electric Aviation.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. A REX board member will join the Dovetail board.

The investment follows a collaboration partnership struck last year with REX, which provided Dovetail with a Beechcraft King Air as flying test bed to develop its hydrogen-electric powerplant.

Dovetail is hoping to achieve certification for converted traditional aircraft refitted with electric engines within four years – around half the 8-10 years it would take for an electric aircraft built from scratch.

The converted aircraft, using magniX engines developed by US-based MagniX, a company born on the Gold Coast in 2005, will be 30-40% quieter with operating costs around 40% cheaper.

Dovetail – not to be confused with the software startup of the same name – was founded in 2021 by Aaron Shaw, founder and CEO of Sydney Seaplanes and aerospace engineer David Doral, founder of electric aviation startup Dante Aeronautical.

Dovetail is hoping to open conversion centres in Australia, Europe and Singapore, with the United States and Middle East also on the drawing board.

David Doral said the addressable market for converted planes is huge.

“We estimate that in the global small commuter fleet alone there are more than 11,000 nine to nineteen seat aircraft that are currently capable of being retro-fitted which represents a US$15 billion market,” he said.

“Our vision is to lead regional aviation across the world into an exciting, new sustainable era before leveraging the IP, approvals and facilities we establish into larger aircraft and longer flights as improvements in electric propulsion technology enable.”

In January, federal science and innovation minister announced $3 million in funding for Dovetail under the government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) program.

The grant is to develop, test and certify the conversion of the turbine-powered planes into fully electric aircraft.

While REX has recently moved into jet flights between capital cities on Australia’s eastern seaboard, it’s build its network flying from capitals to regional town cities in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia on turbo-prop planes. The company also owns air freight, aeromedical and charter operator Pel-Air Aviation, and half-owns FIFO charter business National Jet Express.

This equity participation agreement follows the successful completion of initial ground tests involving Dovetail’s small-scale Electric Propulsion System (EPS).

Doral said the partnership with Rex not only validates Dovetail’s innovative technology but also provides a strong foundation for the company’s continued growth and development. R

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