United Airlines Agrees to Buy 100 Zero-Emissions Planes From Startup

Could this change regional flying?

The ES-19 in flight.
Heart Aerospace

For ethically-minded travelers, it’s been a confusing couple of years. Some environmental advocates, such as Greta Thunberg, have endorsed the idea of giving up air travel as a way of bolstering the environment. Before the onset of the pandemic last year, the flight shaming movement showed signs of gaining momentum — and, with travel picking back up, it’s not hard to imagine that flight shaming might do the same before long.

Hypothetically, what if there was a way to do both — to continue flying without raising concerns over carbon emissions? That day might be closer than we think. At Robb Report, Demetrius Simms reports on a bold initiative from United Airlines which might see dozens of electric planes take to the skies before the decade is out.

At the center of this project is the Swedish startup Heart Aerospace, whose ES-19 offers the promise of a low-cost, zero-emissions flight. The company anticipates that the ES-19 will be certified to fly in the third quarter of 2026. Admittedly, these planes aren’t large — the “19” in its name refers to the number of passengers it can carry, and its maximum range is around 250 miles. Think regional flights rather than cross-country jaunts.

As Simms writes at Robb Report, United has committed to buying 100 ES-19s (provided they meet United’s standards) as part of a larger investment in the startup. The article also notes that Mesa Airlines is making a similar commitment. This investment is part of a larger strategy from United of reducing its emissions to zero by 2050. It’s a bold decision, but one that could have serious benefits along the way.

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