Successful Electric Airplane Test Could Mean More Flights to Regional Airports, Cantwell Says

September 28, 2022

Yesterday’s test flight of the first ever all-electric commuter airplane shows WA state is leading the charge into the future of aviation


Cantwell: Routes to Walla Walla, Spokane and Moses Lake “will be more economical with these kinds of flights … electric planes can connect regional communities in ways previously not possible”


Today, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) addressed aviation industry leaders testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation. Cantwell, who serves as the committee chair, highlighted the need to invest in electric aircraft and alternative sustainable fuel sources in order to make commuter air travel cleaner, more affordable and more accessible for communities across Washington state and the nation.

The hearing was held one day after Washington state aerospace company Eviation launched its first ever test flight for “Alice,” a nine-seater all-electric commuter airplane prototype, in Moses Lake.

“Yesterday’s historic test flight and today’s hearing demonstrate it’s possible electric aircraft can become the new standard for regional travel, opening new opportunities for sustainability and connectivity,” Sen. Cantwell said.

Sen. Cantwell delivers remarks at Commerce Subcommittee hearing.

During the hearing, Sen. Cantwell emphasized how expanding electric air travel could prove transformative in communities without a major airport, especially for shorter commuter flights. Currently, half of all flights in the U.S. are less than 500 miles, she pointed out.

"These new opportunities for places like Seattle to Walla Walla, or maybe Spokane to Missoula, or Moses Lake to parts of Oregon or California, are now the kinds of things that will be more economical with these kinds of flights,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Electric planes can connect regional communities in ways previously not possible.”

Eviation CEO Greg Davis was among the panel of industry experts who testified before the subcommittee. During the Q&A portion, Sen. Cantwell said that electric airplanes like Alice seem “like a game changer” for the future of air travel in Washington state.

“Particularly with the airlines, and even with the expansion of (Everett’s) Paine Field … The notion that Walla Walla that's constantly short changed -- you know, very big and growing wine region of our country. But one flight a day or two flights a day, you can change that. And you could have people going five or six flights a day. Now, it's all economical. So you're changing the dynamics of a rural economy,” Sen. Cantwell said.

Davis responded:

“I thank you very much for your words about changing the industry, changing the world. That's exactly how we see it. It's a very easy game to play to think, where are you right now? And could you find nine people or eight other people who wanted to go 200 or 300 miles away right now? And for Moses Lake to Walla Walla, or to Paine Field as you've just said, those are routes that we will be able to do as the aircraft enters into service. So certainly, the applications and the capability of the technology that goes into the aircraft will allow those routes to expand, and only further improve our capability to transform regional air travel.”

Sen. Cantwell has been a fierce supporter of reducing pollution from the aviation industry, including the development of carbon-cutting technology like sustainable aviation fuels. Last year, she introduced a proposal to spur the development of electric, hybrid, and alternatively powered planes through a new federal tax incentive. And she was a key architect of several climate resiliency provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act, including a $297 million federal competitive grant program to help build out the infrastructure necessary to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuel and develop low-emissions aviation technology.

A full transcript of Sen. Cantwell’s remarks at today’s hearing can be found HERE. Video can be found HERE. A high-resolution photo of Sen. Cantwell speaking at the hearing can be found HERE.