AN Australian first of its kind.

Latrobe Regional Airport is set to make history, as it becomes the first location in Australia to house an electric aircraft development centre, a significant step forward in the field of aviation.

Dovetail’s Electric Aviation’s Development Centre in the Latrobe Aerospace Technology Precinct was officially opened last Friday by the Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Harriet Shing, alongside Latrobe City Council representatives.

Dovetail, a ground-breaking zero-emissions air mobility company researching hydrogen propulsion and electronic flight, has now made its home at the Latrobe Regional Airport.

Dovetail Electric Aviation Chief Executive, David Doral, said the world had reached a crisis point with climate change.

“We live in an unprecedented crisis that is climate change,” he said.

“We have a mission with Dovetail Electronic Aviation, which is to decarbonise aviation.”

Dovetail will retrofit regional aircraft with batteries and hydrogen propulsion, enabling zero-emission flights. This will create about 90 highly skilled new jobs in Victoria over the next five years. Dovetail aims to lessen the environmental impact of air travel and boost the local clean energy sector.

“We’re looking at the first hydrogen-electric propulsion system developed ever for commercial aviation in Australia,” he said.

Not only is the team at Dovetail expected to decarbonise and decrease flight operation costs by up to 40 per cent, but they say that planes with this technology would also last longer and have reduced noise levels.

Dovetail’s new centre will include research and development and potential flight testing.

Mr Doral aims to have experimental flights underway by next year and a commercial product in the market by 2026.

The Latrobe Aerospace Technology Precinct is a flexible-use Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) space that enables AAM companies to develop technology in the region. Council has been developing the precinct for the past two years, with support and guidance from Invest Victoria.

Dovetail is one of the latest advanced air mobility technology companies to move their research to the region; wireless charging drone trials by Aquilla Earth are already taking place with the Regional Advanced Air Mobility Surrogate Trial (RAST) soon to come.

Latrobe City Council has been successful in attracting new technology to the region, and with this official precinct now up and running, they expect to see more innovative technology come through the doors.

“The Latrobe Council was more proactive than anybody else … there’s a real drive and a real interest to make advanced air mobility possible and a reality here in the Valley,” Mr Doral said.

Ms Shing said hydrogen propulsion technology is already proven, and regional Victoria could benefit from the ground-breaking research.

“We are really pleased to support Dovetail Electric Aviation’s new centre in the Latrobe Valley, which will deliver world-leading innovations for the aviation sector, create new jobs in regional Victoria and contribute to the state’s net-zero emissions goal,” she said.

“It’s about overcoming many of the challenges of distance for people – whether that’s moving toward commercial flights and partnering with Rex Airlines or indeed taking medicine to people who need it in the farthest corners of our state.

“We know that energy is one of the best things we do across the Latrobe Valley, and moving towards hydrogen and electrification, we can achieve further innovation and development.

“As we move away from coal fire power generation and into battery storage, into renewable energy with projects like this, investments like this are a big part of the work that we do to ensure that jobs growth continues.”

Minister Shing and Latrobe City said there would be a future in education investment in the region to ensure locals have the opportunity to earn and learn closer to home in the new industry.

The state government’s AAM Industry Vision Statement outlines a plan to develop industries such as clean aviation, renewables, advanced manufacturing and digital technology. The state government said the Dovetail’s Development Centre’s advanced local aviation capabilities would help the transition to clean energy under the state government’s goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.

With the state government’s open acceptance of Dovetail’s work using hydrogen as aviation fuel, Minister Shing did not go so far as to announce her support for Japan’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project, but said the final reports from the research would be interesting to see how viable an option the project will be.

“What we do know is that green hydrogen has a really important role to play in the way in which we combine that with, for example, electrification to deliver the best longevity of aircraft such as the small aircraft that Dovetail is working on delivering,” the Minister added.

Latrobe City Mayor, Darren Howe said council was excited to partner with the state government and Dovetail.

“With access to flight testing support and uncongested airspace, the Development Centre will help progress the local clean energy aviation sector and drive future AAM activities to support economic growth in the region,” the Mayor said.

“As our region transitions from the traditional industries that have underpinned our economy, we are looking towards new industry and innovation. Latrobe Aerospace Technology Precinct presents an opportunity to position Latrobe Regional Airport at the forefront of the emerging aviation sector creating new industry and enabling investment and employment opportunities.

“Council welcomes collaboration with existing and emerging technologies in AAM as we establish this exciting new industry and investment.”

After the official opening of the Latrobe Aerospace Technology Precinct, an information session on the project’s opportunities was held at the airport terminal.

Big names in the aviation industry, such as Airbus, Thales, Wisk Aero (Boeing), and Swinburne Air Hub, were present to hear about the innovation opportunities now available in the Latrobe Valley.

“When you look at our transition plan, part of it is attracting new technologies and bringing new jobs to Latrobe City … this is the start of a new era in aviation, and we are right at the forefront of it,” the Mayor said.

“Dovetail is expecting to have 100 jobs in the next two or three years, so if we get five other start-up companies that want to come down here, we could be looking at five, six, 800 jobs,” he added.

The development centre will also support growth in regional freight, tourism and service delivery, highlighting the state as a leader in sustainable regional aviation.

A Deloitte Access Economics report found the AAM sector could potentially increase Victoria’s gross state product by $2.8 billion over the next 20 years and create 1300 jobs annually.

Who knows what could happen? Perhaps within a few years’ time, flights to Melbourne will become cheaper than taking the M1.