United and Mesa ink deals for electric regional aircraft

United Airlines intends to purchase 100 electric aircraft from Swedish startup Heart Aerospace, planning to use the 19-seat planes on some of its shortest routes.

United Express regional partner Mesa Airlines has also committed to purchasing 100 of Heart’s ES-19 aircraft. Heart Aerospace says the planes could enter service as soon as 2026.

Both purchase commitments are conditional. United said it would make the purchases once the Heart aircraft meet its “safety, business and operating requirements.”

“We expect the short-haul regional air travel market to play a key role in the evolution of the electric aircraft,” said Michael Leskinen, United’s vice president of corporate development and investor relations. As battery technology improves, larger-gauge aircraft should become viable, but we’re not going to wait to begin the journey.”

The ES-19 is expected to have a range of up to 250 miles by the end of the decade, United said. Once in service, the plane could operate on more than 100 United regional routes, such as Chicago-Lafayette, Ind. and San Francisco-Modesto, Calif.

Neither United nor Mesa revealed the purchase price of their aircraft orders.

Both carriers have made investments in Heart Aviation, with United making the investment through its recently established venture capital arm, United Airlines Ventures. The carriers did not say how much they have invested.

The announcement by United and Mesa builds upon the commitment the two carriers made in February to buy 200 electric vertical takeoff and landing craft from Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup Archer Aviation. The Heart deal is also part of United’s broader promise to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2050 without using offsets.

United also recently entered into an agreement to purchase 15 of Boom Supersonic’s Overture jets once they are certified to fly. Boom is designing the supersonic planes to be powered by sustainable aviation fuel.

Numerous startups are developing electric aircraft, though limitations in battery technology are confining such development to small planes with short ranges.

Heart’s 19-seat design its larger than any of its all-electric competitors, according to United. The aircraft would produce zero operational emissions, United said.

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