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Electric Aviation News in a Nutshell



Anyone surprised to learn that 48 percent of EAA members polled believe they’ll someday fly an electric airplane may have missed the news coming from EAA.org and EAA’s weekly member electronic newsletter e-Hotline. The utilization of electric aircraft for routine flight training or for racing would have seemed impossible just a few years ago. Now they may be right around the corner. Here’s a quick summary of the latest electric airplane news. Read more

In October, EAA reported there will be $60,000 in prize money awarded at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 in a competition for electric aircraft. There will be individual awards for endurance, time-to-climb, maximum speed, innovation, and an overall award. The winners will be chosen by representatives of four companies that will provide support and prizes for the competition.

At the AOPA Aviation Summit in November it was announced that an electric Cessna 172 will fly next year. The 400-pound engine will be removed and replaced with a 40- to 45-pound electric motor. Expected to appear at air shows next year, the initial version will be two-place. The aircraft may be targeted for the training environment where hourly cost could be reduced from $55/hour or $60/hour to less than $10/hour. The Phase 2 design will feature a six-blade prop and solar panels on the wings.

John Petersen, a highly respected “futurist” from The Arlington Institute, has predicted that electric airplanes will someday dominate the skies. He cited the rapidly accelerating pace of technological innovation that is expected to allow you to charge a car battery in 5 minutes and then drive 500 miles. Ceramic batteries could weigh 30 pounds instead of 300 pounds for lead-acid types.

Technological advances in electric power are being driven by forces in the automobile industry. New designs of engines and batteries that result from these developments will trickle down to the world of aviation. ThinGap LLC has produced a 25.6-pound electric ring motor said to be capable of producing an amazing 163 hp. The ring motor is 14 inches in diameter and only 3.5 inches thick.

Early this month, John Monnett, founder of Sonex, completed the first flight of the electric Waiex. The company has spent four years developing the proprietary 54-kilowatt motor, electronic motor controller, and lithium polymer battery system. After the flight, John said it was “different” but with lots of power. An electric amateur-built kit airplane looms in the near future.

Finally, if you’re a simple grassroots ultralight builder, the near future can be glimpsed in the existing technology already available for the world of giant radio-controlled models. How about a 21-hp motor weighing only 6 pounds that costs $300? Even at half their rated power, two of these Turnigy CA120-70 brushless motors should be able to fly an ultralight. Caution is advised, though, as their reliability for manned flight is unproven.


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