October 15, 2009

Seismic Stuff: Practical Electric Flight Takes Off (from China)

I wanted to point out a great article in this month's edition of Sport Aviation, the EAA magazine.

That would be EAA as in Experimental Aircraft Association.

Simply titled "Electric Flight," this article is the first description that I have read of practical electric flight, not as a concept, but as a reality, with an objective test pilot at the controls. Taking off and landing on battery power.

Just to be clear, the actual plane you see in the picture is capable of taking two people aloft for several hours with no fossil fuel, just batteries, with a recharging cost of about $3 per hour! Future developments could well produce versions that are capable of flying cross-country (in stages) just like any other Light Sport Aircraft, but without many of the pre-flight checks required by petroleum powered aircraft (e.g. there are no oil/air/fuel filters to check). And this is not the opinion of some electric vehicle nut. The author of this article, Dave Morss is a very practical test pilot with 25 years experience. He was clearly impressed by the plane, the Yuneec e430, and the team that created it. Consider these two quotes:
As for dependability, this may be the first plane I’ve tested that could fly nonstop, except for battery changes, for three days right out of the box (literally) with no squawks.
Nobody told them they couldn’t build an airplane in three months, so they just did it. It’s refreshing to work with a team with no limits. They’re relentless. They’re ingenious. And they’re determined to make electric flight a reality.
What makes this aircraft so seismic is not just the realization of practical, comfortable electric flight that can be mass produced--an enormous thing in itself--but also the fact that the team making it happen is from China. If anyone needed convincing that Chinese are serious competitors in both innovation as well as production, this is it.

(Unfortunately, I have not found the article posted in any public location on the web but I will keep looking and post a link if I find one.)

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