Sounds Air (S8, Picton) is planning to induct at least three 19-seater Heart Aerospace ES-19 all-electric aircraft by 2026 as its first step in transitioning to a zero-emissions fleet by around 2030.

"We've been on this journey for about two years now. We're now at that point where we confirmed our orders and we are just that little bit closer to providing zero-emission services to our customers," Chairman and Director Rhyan Wardman said in an interview with Radio New Zealand.

The regional specialist plans to initially deploy the aircraft on its cross-Cook Strait trunk route from Blenheim to Wellington. However, Wardman said that as the technology matures and the Es-19t's range increases, Sounds Air will also look at other, longer sectors.

"By 2030, the next generation of electric aircraft will be able to fulfil all the sectors that we fly," Wardman said, underlining that neither the recharge time nor the range were expected to hinder the type's operational deployment.

The New Zealand carrier currently operates four Cessna (single turboprop) C208B Grand Caravans and six PC-12s. As such, the ES-19 will be a larger type than its current fleet. The order follows a Memorandum of Understanding with the Swedish start-up manufacturer signed in late 2020. Sounds AIr is set to become the type's Australasian launch operator. Finnair, United Airlines, and Mesa Airlines have all signed Letters of Intent with Heart Aerospace but have yet to firm their commitments.